Roaring Fork Valley trio going the distance
CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Nothing like a good, hard Roaring Fork Valley winter to toughen one up for one of the toughest races there is to run.
At least that’s what two of three valley women who are in the final week of preparation for the April 20 U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston have been thinking for the past few months, as record snow and cold has prevailed over more favorable training weather.
The valley will be well-represented, as local standouts Caroline Cretti of Carbondale, and Megan Lund and Mary Cote of Basalt join some 180 top female U.S. distance runners at the trials. The top three finishers will earn a spot on the U.S. team for the Beijing Olympics this summer.
The trials race takes place in downtown Boston the day before one of the premier marathons in the world, the Boston Marathon.
Cretti, 23, was a two-time Class 3A Colorado State High School 1600- and 3200-meter champion for Roaring Fork High School in 2001 and 2002, and a 15-time All American NCAA Div. III cross country and track runner at Williams College in Massachusetts before graduating in 2006.
She is now a member of the Reebok/Powerbar ZAP Elite team, training with a group of runners in the mountains of North Carolina. Cretti qualified for the marathon trials with a fifth-place women’s time of 2 hours, 43 minutes, 13 seconds at the Twin Cities Marathon last fall in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
“I trained in Carbondale for about two months after that to work with the altitude, and then moved back to North Carolina,” Cretti said in an e-mail interview this week. “I got a little Achilles injury which I have been rehabbing, but am definitely coming around.
“I have been really working hard in the pool,” she added, “but also been getting in a lot of running workouts; sort of working it from all angles. I am excited to see how it all unfolds.”
Meanwhile, Lund and Cote have done their training at home in the midvalley.
“I’ve been averaging around 90 miles a week, but with all the snow and ice, I haven’t been doing a lot of speed work,” said Lund, 24, who lives and trains in Basalt, where she was a top cross country and track runner for Alpine Christian Academy and Basalt High School before competing collegiately for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She now runs for the Colorado Women’s Adidas Team.
“I think the coldest day was about minus-23 degrees,” she said. “I remember looking at the thermometer one morning and thinking it said 23 (above zero). When I got back from my run I realized it was minus 20.
“It’s definitely been a good character builder training here this winter,” Lund said. “It probably made up for the lack of speed work.”
Cote, a familiar face on the local road racing scene for several years, including top-female finishes in the Basalt Half Marathon and the 16.5-mile Mt. Sopris Runoff, also resides in Basalt with her husband, Gilles, and two sons, Jean-Paul, 12, and Jacques, 9.
She had the added pressures of taking care of a family while trying to train through a difficult winter for the marathon trials.
“I feel like I’m ready, but it was very difficult for me,” said Cote, who, at 43, is the veteran of the local contingent of qualifiers. She will be among just 14 Masters level runners (age 40 and above) in the trials, a group that includes Joan Samuelson, now 50, who was the very first women’s Olympic Marathon champion at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Gilles, an accomplished Masters runner himself locally, will be accompanying his wife and running the Boston Marathon the next day.
This will be Mary Cote’s second Olympic Trials. She also competed in the 2004 marathon trials in St. Louis. She met the qualifying standard for this year’s trials by a mere 2 seconds, with a time of 2:46:58 at last October’s St. George (Utah) Marathon.
“I’m used to doing a fall marathon, so I usually take November and December off to ski, and run a little bit,” Cote said. “This is the first time I ever really dedicated myself to training through January and February, and of course it happens to be one of the biggest snow winters ever.
“I was on the treadmill a lot, but it got to the point where I got sick of the treadmill and I just had to go outside,” she said.
Sharing the coaching expertise of Art Siemers with Lund, Cote also achieved some training firsts along the way, pushing her mileage up to 90 miles a week in February. Siemers is the head track and co-head cross country coach at the Colorado School of Mines, and also coaches a number of elite women runners.
“He has really taken my training to the next level,” said Cote. “St. George is really the only marathon where I could have run fast enough to qualify. (The trials) will be my chance to try to do a personal best on a harder city course.”
Lund also qualified at St. George, finishing second overall among a field of 2,228 women in 2:41:59. In fact, she enters the trials with the best qualifying time for runners under age 25.
She chose to run St. George with her dad, longtime Basalt High School track coach Ron Lund, in honor of his 50th birthday last year.
“I decided that, if I was going to do it, I wanted to try to qualify (for the trials),” she said. “So my coach changed my training, and I just had one of those incredible days; the whole experience was amazing.
“After I did it, I said, ‘I can’t wait to do another one.'”
She had the chance to do another marathon even before the trials, as she and Cote both, by virtue of their finishes at St. George, were invited to run in the Ibigawa Marathon in Japan in January. Lund opted for the half-marathon there instead, and finished as the top female in roughly 1 hour, 20 minutes.
“I’m just really excited to be able to run with so many talented women,” Lund said of the trials. “I never realized I’d be able to qualify for the trials this soon, but I really feel like I do belong in the field.”
Cretti is keeping her goals for the trials to herself.
“Let’s just say I want to have a good experience, but I have sort of two levels of goals,” she said. “One goal is if April 20 turns out to be the perfect day, and one goal is sort of the ‘B’ goal, but still a good one.”
Following a highly decorated college running career, Cretti turned to road racing and longer distances. Working with coach Pete Rea, she decided to move up to the marathon distance after running the U.S. 25K Championships last May.
“The 25K was my first race over 10 miles and it just really worked well for me,” Cretti said. “I think being from Colorado has helped me develop a lot as a runner, aerobically as well as just the passion for the sport.
“So, I can attribute a lot of it to just being raised in the Roaring Fork Valley,” she said.
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