Los Angeles, CA. — There’s a whole different vibe to an Olympic Trials race, because by its very nature it is not a final, but a prelim. Top three is a win no matter how you slice it because that’s the goal, to determine the team going to the Olympic Games. And yet for some the win is very important. This year in Los Angeles in the women’s Olympic Marathon Team Trials race 2012 Trials runner-up Desi Linden has made no secret that her goal is to break the tape first.
“Thanks for mentioning all my second-place finishes,” Desi quipped after USATF’s Jill Geer introduced Desi at the press conference yesterday at the J.W. Marriott Hotel at LA Live with a list of her accomplishments, including second place in Boston 2011, runner-up at the Trials 2012 in Houston.
“Hopefully this will be the breakthrough race where I can break the tape and get a win.”
Both Desi and Luke Puskedra, the other featured athlete at the kick-off presser that included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, USATF CEO Max Siegel, and Conqur Endurance Group CEO Tracy Russell, agreed with Desi that what it would take the ability to close well, handling that last 10k to win the race and make the team. Not hanging on, but closing well.
“You need to be ready for everything,” said the 6’4” Luke, whose 2:10:24 in Chicago last fall made him the fastest American of 2015 in the marathon. “Even if someone goes early, it will take a 2:08 effort even if not a 2:08 time in the heat.”
Trials’ racing is different. I remember the 1984 Olympic track & field trials where Craig Virgin came into the meet with a bit of a knee injury. Yet he pressed the pace in the 10,000m final, before coming in second to the late Paul Cummings of Utah 28:02 to 27:59. Afterwards I asked Craig why he pushed the pace when he was less than 100%. And he said, “because I only wanted someone who was a peer to beat me. I didn’t want the pace to be slow, like 29 minutes where a bunch of people who normally couldn’t beat me might be in the position to do so.”
At the 1984 Marathon Trials in Buffalo, New York Pete Pfitzinger opened a good lead in the second half. Then Alberto Salazar came and caught him. I was in the lead moto calling that final sprint. “They’re saving nothing for Los Angeles, they’re going for the win! They’re going for the win.”
Things get heated. Athletes are competitors.
And in Houston 2012 Ryan Hall dropped it into high gear right from the start on a chilly ideal racing day. Boom! 4:50 out the door! How do you do! 1:03:25 halfway. I talked to Josh Cox yesterday who is agenting these days, and he recalled, ‘they took off at 2:06 pace. We were in the second pack around 2:08:30 pace. But we had no choice. You had to be in the in the second pack, cause we realized only two of those guys up front were gonna make it all the way through. So you had to win that second pack race if we wanted to make the team.”
Now, it didn’t turn out that way as Meb Keflezighi went by Ryan at 25 miles, and Abdi Abdirahman held off Dathan Ritzenhein for third. But that’s the kind of mentality you have to have in a Trials race.
There’s a race for victory, and then there’s a race for third. But Desi has put it out there, after the disappointment of having to step off the Olympic Marathon course in London 2012 after two miles because of an injury, she’s here in Los Angeles going for her second team, but also the National title that will attend it.
“She’s saving nothing for Rio! She’s going for the win! She’s going for the win!”
And we wish her well (along with all the others)