Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hobnobbing Here, Among the Elite

We all know it's cool that we get to run in the same competition as the top athletes in the world - even though they are way up front and we may never see them. Still, we often get a glimpse before the race, or get to see them at the expo. And they are usually very normal, nice people, about the same size as us, with the same nervousness and fears and dreams. (well, bigger dreams)

And I've met a few.
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Me and Kara at RNR LA
Me and Jen Rhines at Cherry Blossom

Me and Ryan and Sara Hall at the LA expo.

But this year I got to actually know a couple elites (OK, sub-elites) that ran in LA.

First I met Cheyne. He works at Skechers which is close to where I live. He just moved down from San Francisco, and met up with our Tuesday running group. I found myself running with him at 8 minute pace and we started chatting. I found out he is running LA and told him I was too, and was shooting for 3:25. I thought maybe he would have a similar goal since, you know, we were running at the same speed...

"Oh, I'm shooting for an Olympic Trials Qualifier, under 2:18"



He ran with us most Tuesdays (as his 2nd run of the day after a hard morning workout). He was banking 110 mile weeks. Nice guy, fun to talk to. He was genuinely interested in my assessment of the LA race course. Turns out his PR is 2:25, when he got 3rd at the Napa marathon.Six weeks before LA he ran Surf City as a training run; Easy for ten miles, and then MGP for 16. He won in 2:35.

We became friends, and when he needed a way to get to the race, I offered to pick him up, and we drove to the shuttle bus pickup area together. Until he went off to his elite bus...

He also scored me a free pair of Skechers, so there's that.

So that's one. Now here's another story.

I went to the race expo on Friday before LA. This was the day after I got laid off, so I was still kind of shell-shocked. I had the whole day to kill, so I figured I'd hang out there for a while. I saw Ryan and Sara Hall would be speaking, so I sat in the speech area and listened to some guy tell us how to properly run a marathon. Then there was 20 minutes to kill. I sat in the front row and started chatting with some girl named Cassidy about Ryan Hall. It was the usual running talk. She's from Chicago, so I told her about the race course, etc.

Then I saw her bib. Number 132. "Um, are you in the elite corral?" Turns out, yes! Her PR is 2:49 and her goal is also to get an Olympic trials qualifier (2:42). But, you know, just a regular runner who happens to be really fricking fast.

We got along well, and sat through the Halls' interview, and then waited in line for photos with them (see above). We both had no other plans for the day, so we grabbed some lunch next to the expo. Lots more runner talk about the race and strategy and goals - the usual.

Had to get my "elite" shot...For when she becomes famous...

She was without a car, so I gave her a quick tour of part of the course so she could see the hills before dropping her off.  We talked about race strategy; Whether it made sense for her to start with the elite women, or to start with the main pack later and run with some fast guys instead of by herself behind the faster women.

So race day came. It was hot and I bonked, but then I touched base with Cheyne afterward. He didn't have a good day (like most of us). By mile ten he had dropped off of goal pace and was considering quitting, but he hooked up with one of the women who had started ten minutes ahead and ended up running with her for the whole second half of the race. Called it a training run. He finished in 2:49.

Then I checked Cassidy's result. 2:58:56. Hmmm. Given her ten minute head start, that meant they must have been very close at the finish. You guessed it. She was the woman Cheyne ran with! They ended up running together for over half of the race. Somehow my name never came up. I had already told each of them earlier the story of how I met the other one. Now I got to tell them that their new race partner was my friend. Cool. Here they are in the race.

So now Cassidy is training for Grandma's and another shot at 2:42. Cheyne is shooting to qualify in a half. Both are still hoping to be in LA next Spring for the Olympic Trials. Maybe we can have a reunion.

Running is cool.

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