OLYMPIC TRIALS MARATHON PART 1: BEFORE THE STARTING LINE

The Olympic Trials Marathon is drifting into the past. I feel like that wedding guest that totally didn’t bring a gift. My friend Dave has always told me you have a year to send a gift. I don’t want to know what Martha Stewart would have to say on the matter. If you have a year to give a wedding gift, how long do you have to write a race recap? That no one registered for.

Okay all that intro solved was that you shouldn’t invite me to your wedding (unless you need that one person that will get the dance party started) AND that a race recap one year later would be the worst wedding gift ever. It also illustrated that I’m even worse than Carrie Bradshaw at word play.

Let’s talk LA!
First, there has been criticism of the USATF for the poor organization and promotion of the race. I have been ruminating on those posts and articles for weeks, and my thoughts require a separate blog. Initially I was embarrassed by how incredibly starry eyed I’d been. I hadn’t seen behind the curtain, and I’m usually the first person trying to look. I felt shame sweep over me for the amount of time and money my family and I put in to getting there (literally and figuratively) when the USATF didn’t even meet us half way.

Even I as I write that, my face is hot with embarrassment. But I’m reminding myself that my experience was built by my friends and family. That they love me and I love them and that I’m thankful. And that I'm proud that I qualified and raced. There are improvements to be made in this sport I love. In the promotion and organization of events and in the treatment of athletes. My thankful heart doesn’t erase that. They live together, both true.

What's outright inexcusable was the medical support. My teammate Andi's story makes me so angry. She was in serious need of medical help and it's shameful how long it took and how inadequate it was. 

The broad strokes don’t erase the individuals in the organization that jumped to help me at any chance, whether my password wasn’t working on the site or I had a question about fluid bottles. Or the volunteers who worked so hard all day. Even the one that threw my trainers away (more on that later).

STEPPED OFF THE PLANE AT LAX … or BUR


Owen, PJ and I walked off the plane. Down the stairs, rockstar style. Into the blazing heat. I looked at my phone, it said 73 degrees, but lord did it feel hot to this moldy Seattleite. That was the first time I thought okay, they are serious. Race day could be hot.

I checked PJ and Owen into the AirBnB I rented for them, my parents and my brother to stay in. Our Uber driver had to tell us not to take a left on one particular street. They were only 2 blocks from Skid Row. Oomph. But glad he said something.

I attempted to nap unsuccessfully. Refreshing my phone and worrying about this or that. I kissed PJ and Owen goodbye and grabbed an Uber to the LA Athletic Club where I would be staying with my Oiselle teammates. Threw my stuff into my room and then met Steph for a shakeout.

Man it was a dry heat! I had a long sleeve and shorts, halfway committed to heat acclimation.  We talked race strategy and attempted to string more than two blocks together without being stopped by lights and traffic. She told me to go out in 6:20s and assess at the 10k how much the heat was affecting me. She said 2:29 would make the team (it did) and she told me 2:47 would crack top 50 (2:46:59 was 51st). I left her with top 50 ringing in my ears. Was that really possible? Anything was possible.
On my way up to change, I ran into some Oiselle gals in the lobby, we pondered whether we’d go to the dinner that night. I wasn’t feeling great, but also want to soak up the whole experience knowing this most likely be my only time at the Trials.

I decided I’d get my uniform approved and then come back and change before dinner. I ran into Trisha in the lobby and jumped in her car. It took 30 minutes to drive less than a mile. LA, good lord. There’d be no time to go back and change before the banquet. So yeah I rocked a pretty solid look… Stussy pencil skirt, Oiselle Tee and Converse kicks borrowed from Shal because I was wearing Birkinstocks.

Uniform approval was interesting. Typical hotel conference room set up. Folding tables, some water, and officials. We had to check every single thing in to get logo approval. I didn’t know to bring my socks, but the guy let me by. They put black duct tape over the logo on the back of our warm up jackets because it was too big. Then they had us write our names on an index card and sign it. They lined everything up, laid the card on top and took a photo.
Trisha and I signed the big #roadtorio poster, grabbed our little swag bags and that was that.
I road the bus over to the welcome banquet with Shal. When we arrived the event wasn’t ready. So we waited outside in a line. Suddenly there were sparkly leotards shimmying towards us. Two dancers and a little drum band. I mean they were dressed to the nines and I’m standing there is tennis shoes with a bunch of nervous, sober marathoners as they move their hips in ways mine don’t work. The line watching was so quiet and so awkward. And then boom they were singling me out, taking my hand to dance on that lonely pavement stage. I did my best ‘don’t die of embarrassment dance’ and slinked away.



Luckily they were ready for us shortly after my public display of awkwardness and we all filed into the event. Shal and I didn’t stay long, we grabbed food and took a selfie with Meb (as you do) and headed for our beds. Or Shal headed to get her foot worked on and I headed to the hotel to order a room service burger and watch the Mindy Project. I’m superstitious about eating beef two nights out and I couldn’t afford the steak. The burger arrived so late, I was sleep eating and crashed.
Even better (Sorry Meb) we ran into Deena sipping champagne at the Marriot
I don’t know how, but I was on my feet nearly all day Friday. Running over to the drugstore for bottle labels, running to the race hotel for an interview with the NYTimes, Whole Foods for lunch with Owen and my brother Daniel, moving rooms before the team photo, dropping my elite bottles off, then team photo, technical meeting and number pick up. I didn’t rest near to what I usually do before a marathon. But that’s what everyone seemed to be doing. And certainly what the pros do! Interview after interview… I don’t know how they do it.
I moved rooms because my friend Dave set me up with my own king sized bed in a private room on race eve. Spoiled. That’s all I knew. I hauled all my bags over to the new room and opened the door. The entire room was covered in good luck photos and posters from my friends and family. I couldn’t stop crying. I was completely overwhelmed by the love. Turns out many of them had chipped in for the room too.

After a good ugly cry session, I showered and hurried over to the Oiselle team photo. The day had been rushing, but it slowed down here. I felt like I could absorb the moment, that I was present. I was with my team, in the kit I’d dreamed of. And damn…we looked fierce. The room had a quiet energy despite the nerves. I felt like I was with my pack, in a little conference room cave, calm before the hunt.
A photo posted by Sarah Mac Robinson (@thatsarahmac) on

After the photos we had some time to kill before the technical meeting. I posted up in the Marriot lobby to stargaze. Shalane passed by. I tried to subtly lurk on the other runners, and they subtly lurked on me. It felt like Almost Famous when William meets Penny Lane at the Hyatt. All the stars were there. I could feel them. And I tried play it cool like Penny, not crazy like the Zeppelin-obsessed kid.
The technical meeting was interesting. I was looking forward to it. It’s actually only the second technical meeting I’ve ever been required to go to. And this was particularly interesting for obvious reasons. But everyone who took the podium apologized, sorry, you don’t want to hear from me… I’ll make this quick… yada, yada. I wanted to stand up and say don’t apologize and don’t make it quick. We all worked very hard to be here and are interested in what you have to say. This is a big deal to me. And to everyone else there (I think).
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After the technical details were relayed, we got in line to get our bibs. I stood behind Kara getting her bib. I was buzzing with the crazy reality that I was going to race the Olympic Trials Marathon the next day!
Bib pick up
MacKay Robinson
With my number in hand I Ubered to have pasta with my family. Then back to my room where I attempted to do light yoga and have my ice bath. My tub drain was broken, but I didn’t notice and kept adding ice and water then going back to stretch. It was this huge flail. I ended up taking the ice bath super late and being ice cold freezing in bed all night. I finally was asleep when the couple next door drunkenly thought my room was theirs and keep banging on the handle at 1am. It was the typical rough night before the race. Night sweats and insomnia.

The morning was a blur, I got gluten free oats and a huge coffee at Whole Foods. I put on my kit. I obsessively organized my little clear bag. Then suddenly was in an Uber to the start with Caitlin.



Read Part 2: After the Starting Line here! Seriously, two part race recaps? I'm not sure who I am anymore. 

Comments

  1. You rock girl! Way to persevere on race day.

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  2. EEK! Can't wait to read part two :)

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