Thursday, June 2, 2016

Marathon Trials Champ Amy Cragg Returns to Action Sunday in San Diego

Since winning the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February, Amy Cragg has run with Michelle Obama on the White House lawn, stood on a beach in Rio de Janeiro and thrown out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. On Sunday she’ll be back on more familiar ground, when she and training partner Shalane Flanagan run their first race since the Trials at the Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon.

“Our goal in San Diego is to help our marathon in Rio,” Amy said on Wednesday afternoon. “We haven’t 100 percent decided yet if that means we’ll go to the well [with a race effort] or run more at [marathon] pace.”

If coach Jerry Schumacher tells Amy and Shalane to race, they’ll be doing so on tired legs. Amy says the duo won’t really taper for San Diego, and that “we officially started high-mileage training for Rio a month ago. Now we’ve started adding more intense workouts, and after a month of that we’ll go to altitude to add that third factor while maintaining mileage and workouts.”

Their time on a Rio beach was a short break during a fact-finding trip to the city Amy and Shalane took in April. The takeaway: The key to success in August 14’s Olympic race will be fitness, not finesse.

“We stayed at a hotel along the 10K loop [that Olympic marathoners will run four times during the criterium course],” Amy says. “We were able to run that part a bunch, and we walked the first and last part. There’s not much to the course. There’s nothing to do to specifically get ready for that course. The biggest thing it to get as fit as we possibly can. I think I fared well [on a hot day at the Trials in Los Angeles] because I was so fit. That makes you better able to handle adverse conditions.”

To help prepare for what will likely be far from ideal conditions in Rio, Amy and Shalane went to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. They ran for 90 minutes on a treadmill in a heat chamber that simulated running at sea level with a temperature in the 80s and humidity at more than 70%. That probable worst-case scenario told them how much they sweat, and what they lose in their sweat, under those conditions; they’ll then use that information to guide their hydration strategy in the Olympics. They’ll also spend the final two weeks before the marathon in an environment similar to Rio’s so that they’re acclimated on race day.

Amy says she feels newly confident as an athlete, but not necessarily because of the marathon trials win to go with the 10,000-meter title she won at the 2012 Trials.

“What really boosted my confidence was the training leading in to the Trials,” she says. “I was more consistent in tougher workouts than I’d ever been. Having Shalane there day after day was a huge marker. I was able to realize I could be there as well.”

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