Two weeks ago four Oiselle Team women qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials (sub 2:45:00 qualifying time) at the California International Marathon. To say the least, it was an absolutely incredible moment! The week after we asked all of you on Twitter, "What would you ask an Olympic Trials Qualifier? We received dozens of questions from your tweets "#QsforOTQ." Our fierce four answered and revealed lots of good info about what led them to their dream goal!
Fierce Four: Olympic Trials Qualifiers
What made you decide to go for Olympic Trials qualifier?
Shal: I qualified for the 2008 trials and have always wanted to see if I could do it again. I missed 2012 as I was still returning to competitive running after having my daughter - 2016 was my next opportunity. I knew it would not be easy -- I would be 8 years older and the standard was 3 minutes faster. But I think the steepness of the goal was a big motivator for me.
Lyndy: I like setting challenging athletic goals for myself! After five years of running at the D1 collegiate level, I was burnt out. So the summer after college, I biked, swam, (went to weird aerobic classes) and basically did every other form of exercise besides running. I also set a goal to do a hike once a week. It was a fun goal and this lead me to climb several mountains that summer. When summer was over, I asked myself “what’s next?” I was refreshed and ready to run again. I didn’t want to race on the track and I knew I was an endurance runner. The timing was perfect to ramp up to aim for a 2:43 marathon. I started training for the Olympic Trials qualifier in the fall.
Mac: Guh, trying to make this short. Why I went for it at CIM. I ran a decent half in September on a tough course and felt good. I signed up 8 weeks out with one question, ‘why not me?’.
The long answer...my running journey has been hills and valleys, but since high school I had this goal burning in my back mind. My dad talked about his attempts so that put it on my radar. Sometimes it would be sharp, other times I’d think I had to let it go, but I couldn’t. I had a lot of heartbreak in running, knee repairs and a broken back. My high school yearbook read: most likely to be a world champion aqua jogger. Yada yada, In 2012 I watched the Trials and couldn’t cheer, I was crying too hard, it was so inspiring. What was left of the little fire got some kindling and built from there.
Cynthia: I ran the Ogden Marathon in May of this year and was hoping to run a 2:47, but ran a 2:43. I was so close to running the qualifying standard (even though it wasn’t a sanctioned course), I had to try for it. I had a running friend who was willing to train with me, so it worked out perfectly!
What kind of sacrifices did you have to make in the last six months? Did you cheat with any foods? Candy corn? Red vines? Beer? Wine? Fun stuff?
Shal: My Stanford 15-year reunion hit the same weekend as an important and tough 20 miler. I missed some of the reunion parties, but still had lots of quality time with my college BFFs. (Luckily they didn’t mind hanging out with me post-workout, sans-shower...thanks ladies.)
Lyndy: I would not say that a runner’s diet is a sacrifice. If it makes you feel good, then it’s 100% worth it! I am a vegan so my diet is very clean: tons of veggies, grains, potatoes, fruits and legumes. I am not a big sweet tooth, but I will admit: whenever I am at a vegan bakery, I get a vegan muffin/cookie/brownie…Vegan treats are hard to come by!
Mac: Definitely social fun was sacrificed. With a baby, work and training I missed hanging out with friends. And my husband honestly. My time was very limited and focused.
I renamed Taper. I call it Peak Weeks. It is a better way to look at it for me. A month before a goal race I cut all alcohol and sugar. I don’t have the worst diet, but I eat more sugar than is optimal during a true recovery focus. Otherwise during my training I just play by 80/20 rules. Do my best to eat veggies.
Cynthia: I tried really hard to eat a well balanced diet and watched my macros by eating 50% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 20% protein. I cheated with treats, but tried not to go crazy on them.
Fueling: what did you eat the morning of the race, and how did you fuel during, and post-race?
Shal: Fueling has been a big focus / challenge area for me. I worked with Stacy Sims this cycle to help me try some new fueling ideas that really helped. I really made sure I was fueled and hydrated the days/week leading up to the race. During the race I had 4-6oz of Osmo every 3-4 miles and after about 8 miles I take 1-2 glucose tablets every 10-20 minutes. We went to a good dinner after the race...steak, fries, red wine and a jelly donut!
Lyndy: 1 banana and plain oatmeal for breakfast. Half a coffee gu 10-20minutes before the race starts. During the race I take small sips of water when I can successfully grab/swallow it (I am not good and running and drinking even though I have practiced). I also take ½ GU at mile 15 and 20. Post race I love Vega Smoothies! If I can find a veggie fajita burrito with lot of guacamole, I am in heaven!
Mac: I don’t have a fuel plan. I ate as much as I wanted of good food leading up. Had oatmeal that AM (exciting, I know). I had my first gel earlier than I would have at my coach’s suggestion, mile 3.3 and just took little gel bites whenever I got ahold of a fluid. After I had a burger and fries and eggnog.
Cynthia: I keep my fueling pretty simple: a banana and peach oatmeal before the race, Gu during the race (1 at mile 7, 14 and 20), and scrambled eggs, yogurt, and chocolate milk after the race.
What was the most significant thing you did that you think led to achieving the OTQ standard?
Shal: Consistency. My coach (Michael McKeeman) and I started working together in 2013 and over that time frame we haven’t changed anything radically. Getting the OTQ this year was an accumulation of two years of consistently putting in hardwork and never letting go of the goal.
Lyndy: Once a runner, always a runner. I liked the OTQ goal because there was a timeframe to qualifying and running under 2:43. This made me really focused and excited!
Mac: I have no idea. Doing strides. Going to bed early. Having Steph Bruce as my coach.
Cynthia: I really wanted to prove to myself that I could qualify again. Qualifying for the OT is sometimes a once-in-a-lifetime deal because life happens and you have a family and things change. I think my determination helped me achieve the goal. I’m pretty driven and once I decided I was going to go for, I was all in.
At what point in the race did you know you "had" it?
Shal: I knew we were on pace the whole way and I picked it up the last few miles so I was feeling confident the closer I got to mile 26. But, then at mile 26 my friend Brooke was screaming hard “You gotta go now!” and I thought, “Oh, no my watch is wrong, I need to sprint!” So really I didn’t know I had it until I saw the clock at the finish :)
Lyndy: My Garmin watch told me so! But I was very scared of slowing down the last 4 miles, so I was not 100% sure until I went through the line.
Mac: When I saw the clock a few feet away from the finish. My brain is a black void those last miles.
Cynthia: At mile 22, I was feeling really good and knew I was on pace to qualify and run a PR. I tried to break the last part of the race into a tempo run and knew if I could keep running 6:10s, or under, per mile, I’d make it.
What was that moment like crossing the finish line when you knew you did it?
Shal: Pure joy and immense gratitude. In a nano-second I had a flash of everyone and everything it took to get there.
Lyndy: PURE RELIEF! After missing the OTQ at Chicago in October, I had visualized the moment of qualifying at CIM every day since. It was surreal to have your visualization come true. I couldn’t stop tearing up because I was flooded with happy emotions!
Mac: Unbelievable. I’m still halfway expecting for someone to tell me it was all a dream.
Cynthia: I was ecstatic, emotional, and relieved! I was so grateful to run a PR and qualify for the OT because I’d been working on this goal for a long time.
Was this the first time you have attempted to qualify for the OT?
Shal: I qualified and competed at the 2008 Olympic Trials. In 2013, after five years away from the marathon, I ran 2:43:33 at CIM, a nearly 3 min PR but 33 seconds shy of the (then) qualifying standard. In 2014, I was unlucky illness and injury. 2015 was all about going sub-2:43.
Lyndy: My lifetime first marathon was 2:45:xx in 2014 at CIM! One year later at CIM I broke the 2:43 barrier and qualified!!!
Mac: I tried in Chicago 2012. I struck a deal with my husband that I’d put in all in one more time then we’d try to have a family. I wanted to go all out so I wouldn’t have unfinished business. But I didn’t make it. I blew up. Four weeks later I was pregnant. And honestly having Penelope broke me first, but ultimately made me stronger. Only took 16 months ;)
Cynthia: I qualified for the OT in 2008 at the Chevron Houston Marathon, and ran in the OT in Boston that year. I didn’t know if I’d be back to run in the Trials again, but am so happy to be able to!
What was your favorite marathon workout leading up to CIM?
Shal: 12 mile tempo where the first 400m of each mile is a surge and the following 1200m is at marathon pace. The 400m surge keeps your mind awake and makes the 1200m at marathon pace feel like “recovery.”
Lyndy: Since I am new to the marathon, I like workouts that simulate the 26.2 race. This is going to sound crazy, but this workout makes me feel like a marathoner. All continuous 20-22 miles: tempo repeats, moderate pace miles, marathon pace, moderate pace miles, tempo repeats.
Mac: I just love running long.
Cynthia: Tempo runs; they’re hard, but doable, and I tried to do 1-2 per week.
Do you have any advice on playing the long game? How do you keep your eyes on the prize over a long/multiple cycles?
Shal: Trust the process. Invest in a coach. Surround yourself with supportive training partners.
Lyndy: Take naps. That makes everything better!
Mac: Cliche, but all you can do is take the step right in front of you. And getting a coach helps big time.
Cynthia: I take a break after a marathon to give me time to gear up for the next one. I still run, but don’t do interval workouts. I try to cross train at least 1 day a week to prevent injuries and change up my running routine.
What kind of cross training (biking, lifting etc) do you do?
Shal: Power yoga and reformer pilates, mostly. I tore my hamstring in April and as part of my recovery I did a lot of cross-training at SoulCycle and PT/gym work to regain strength.
Lyndy: Love power yoga! This makes my shoulders stronger and obviously makes me more flexible. I also have ~5 weight exercise tailored to running I do throughout the week. Once every 2 weeks I hit the elliptical (usually because my second run of the day is too rainy). I like the elliptical because I can trash my lungs and keep my legs fresh.
Mac: Oh lord, none of the above. I’m even hopeless at core. I did start doing my strides though! During my peak weeks I ramped up my Jasyoga. 5 minute videos are clutch.
Cynthia: I ride a road bike once a week and do core exercises 3 times a week.
What do your non running training days look like?
Shal: I usually sleep in, enjoy breakfast with my daughter then head into work(I work full-time at Google). After work, I’ll often go to yoga then home for family dinner.
Lyndy: Yoga in the morning…I straighten my hair and I dress “better” on non-running days
Mac: I don’t have non running training days. I take at least one full day off a week, I do nothing that day. Extra Penelope time! Or more accurately extra office time. And I blow dry my hair.
Cynthia: 60 minutes on my road bike.
What will your preparations for Feb 13 look like? How will you maximize recovery + prep w/ the turnaround?
Shal: First week was all about R&R. I did some (very) light cross-training. I’m just getting back on my feet this week. I imagine I’ll be seeing a lot of the Alter-G in the coming weeks.
Lyndy: First week: zip-zero running. Second week: Non-impact exercise: yoga, elliptical, and swimming. Third week: build up mileage. Then I will work on my quality workouts with less overall mileage. Being fresh at the Trials will be hard, because I raced 2 marathons this winter (3 counting the Trials). However, the spirit bounces back quickly!
Mac: I took a full week off, and didn’t do anything related to running. And I ate anything I wanted, stayed up late. Had wine every night. Now I’m itching to start back. I think our plan will be to stay fit, and not get injured.
Cynthia: This is tricky to maximize recovery and be ready to race in 2 ½ months. I’m taking 2 weeks off running. After 2 weeks, I’m planning to do a couple of interval workouts a week, but will make sure I do my recovery run at a good pace to recover. I don’t want to be too worn out to race well at the Trials.
What goals (other than enjoying it) do you have for the Trials?
Shal: Still thinking...gonna have to see how well I bounce back to training over the next few weeks.
Lyndy: Run with Mac, she looks good in a crop top! :)
Mac: Once I start back running I’ll know better, I want to show up fit, healthy and happy.
Cynthia: I’d like to run a PR (under 2:41:36), but I’m not sure I’ll be recovered enough to do that.
Are you going to make your Valentine’s reservations at a swanky LA joint to celebrate?
Shal: Yes! Thanks for the reminder ;-)
Lyndy: You know it! This is my one-and-only engaged Valentines! I getting married this coming June :)
Mac: My whole family is coming out! It’ll be a big party somewhere.
Cynthia: For sure ;)