How They Did it: Five Austin Runners Hit Olympic Marathon Standard at the California International Marathon

The California International Marathon has long been known to be one of the fastest courses in the country. And held during the first week of December, it’s frequently blessed with great running weather. This year was absolutely ideal—high 40s and low 50s made for perfect marathon-running conditions.

Dozens of Austin runners participated in the event, of those five broke through and qualified for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. Here’s what they had to say about their speedy marathons.

Will Nation

Will Nation, Age 26: 2:15:43 (2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon B Standard)
“The build-up for this race went very well! Anytime you can knock out consistent weeks of training without any setbacks is always a good thing. I also think having another full year under the guidance of my coach (Steve Magness) played a huge part in having a great result at CIM.

I approached this marathon with a different strategy than what I’m used to. In past races I would try to go out conservatively in hopes of not blowing up at the end, but I decided to run a lot more aggressively this time around given that I already hit my OTQ time last year. I really wanted to take a risk and go for the A standard (sub 2:15). Unfortunately, I rode the “struggle bus” at the end, but I’m still happy to come away with a big PR! You’re not always going to PR, so anytime that you do, it’s going to be special. For me, it really validates that all the time and effort that went into the training was absolutely worth it.

Allison Cleaver

Allison Mendez-Cleaver, Age 30: (2:36:13 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon A Standard)
“My marathon prep was a small “build up,” roughly 10 weeks of training with a few marathon specific workouts. I think what was different this time around was that we kept it pretty simple! I averaged around 80-90 miles per week. I never exceeded 20 miles for a long run/workout (I only ran 20 miles once). Every workout created the stimulus I needed in order to get me recovered for the next session. I also raced two big races (US 10 Mile Champs and Indy Monumental Half) during the buildup for fitness checks. Steve Magness (my coach) does things the conservative route and doesn’t try to hammer it all the time which I think made the difference to running well on marathon day!

I just kept believing in myself! (Positive self-talk really does work!!) I had a teammate with me and we were holding each other accountable throughout the race. I think it’s important to feel relaxed and comforted knowing you are in this with someone else. At around mile 18-19 when the race really started happening, a girl I had been running stride for stride with looked over at me and said, “We’re going to get the ‘A’ Standard! We’re gonna do it!” I was in shock. (I don’t like to race with a watch, so I had no clue what we were running at that point) My plan had never been to run the “A” standard, but I knew my fitness was there. After she said that, all I kept thinking was…. ‘you got this, you got this, just keep grinding.’ I felt so strong from mile 20 to the finish. This was a big deal for me because in prior marathons I’ve never felt that good that “late” in a marathon. I also had my husband, coach and friends along the course cheering for me so that also contributed to my success!

I feel confident now walking away from CIM thinking, ‘I CAN be a great marathoner. I DO have the skill set’. Prior to this, I was intimidated by the marathon which is why I haven’t run one since the 2016 Olympic Trials. I needed time away from the race to be hungry for it again- which is why I thought CIM was the perfect fit for me and it was! Also, I really put all my faith in my coach on this one, he kept telling me I was ready, and I trusted him.”

Achieving the qualifying time feels AMAZING! I knew my time would come, I just had to be patient, work hard and keep doing me. Nothing is ever given, you must work hard for the things you want, and I don’t mind working hard. I’m looking forward to running in Atlanta in 2020!”

Allison Macsas, Age 34: (2:40:17 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon B Standard)
“My preparation was far from ideal. From March until the beginning of October I was primarily guiding trail running trips (and living nomadically) with Rogue Expeditions. I did little to no road running and had no training plan whatsoever, though I was putting in my usual 80-90-mile weeks throughout. I was reluctant to race CIM at all, but finally committed and jumped back into

Allison Macsas

workouts with Team Rogue in late October. So, it was a five-week crash course, which has been typical for me over the past few years due to my business. While I fully believe that a full three to four-month training cycle is critical for a command performance I also know that I have enough strength and experience at this point to run a respectable race with minimal prep. I was very hesitant to race CIM given the lack of prep—my confidence levels were pretty low. But once I was there, I was able to feed off the energy of not just the event but especially the 200-plus friends and teammates from Austin that were also there – I realized that it was important to be present, enjoy the experience and do as best I could, and adjusted my mindset accordingly. The perfect weather conditions didn’t hurt either!

I don’t consider this race to have been a breakthrough of any sort for me, but it was a much-needed confidence boost. I hadn’t raced since my Austin Marathon win in February, and it was important to get back into a race scenario and have a good experience. It boosted my motivation to prioritize a full, serious training block leading up to the 2020 Trials—I believe I’ve still got another PR or two ahead of me! 2020 will be my third Olympic Trials and I actually already qualified at the Austin Marathon earlier this year, so that wasn’t the highlight of my race at CIM. The highlight for me was seeing friends who have worked so, so hard to qualify finally hit the standard and punch their ticket to Atlanta. Austin will have big representation on the women’s side and I’m so excited to be part of it!”

Cate Barrett

Cate Barrett, Age 28: (2:43:26 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon B Standard)
My training went well, although being in Texas and all the heat you don’t really get an idea of where you are for most of the time. I felt like my goals were realistic given my past PR’s, but not really a certain thing because I could barely hit paces during my long run workouts where I was practicing my race pace. The whole story of my last two years of running has been that less is more. I run five days a week, instead of six or seven, and I do one hard run work out per week. I rely more heavily on strength training to get me the power and endurance that I need to run for a long time. In the past I really only thought that more running was going to make you faster. I have happily found that not to be true.

I ran between 40 and 55 miles per week since June. Long runs were 12-22 miles. To practice, I ran the Run for the Water 10 miler and the Thundercloud Turkey Trot.

During the marathon, I felt amazing. I guess all of my prep is what allowed me to feel so good. CIM is set up really well. The course has a few rolling hills but is a lot of nice downhill. And the weather is usually fantastic. This year was no exception, low 30s at the start but clear and no wind.

I did my first carbo load ever before this race, and it seems to work well because I felt good and had no issues with nutrition. But the biggest thing that made a difference was just the prep that I did in the last two years. Before I even started this cycle, I had to train to be healthy enough to train. I did three marathons in 8 months last year, getting a feel for marathon training and racing. I knew that this year’s CIM was going to be my first shot at running the trials standard, so I wanted to make sure that I had everything lined up on race day. This [breakthrough] was a statement about believing in myself. I was pretty sure that I could pull this off, but it’s not done until it’s done. And also, it wasn’t Sunday’s run that got me the time, it was the cumulative effort that did it. I had to believe in myself, not just on race day, but way back when I couldn’t string together a 30-mile training week. I don’t think I ever had anyone tell me they didn’t think I could make it. But I still had to be the one to do it, day in and day out. So this marathon was about keeping a promise I made to myself two years ago and telling that woman who was less sure of herself that she was worth it. That the goal mattered because it mattered to her. I feel like that’s what I’ve believed for the last two years but now I’ve just finally had this outside confirmation. Of course, it doesn’t matter how much validation you have if you don’t believe in yourself or enjoy what you’re doing. So while it’s nice to have, I know it’s not the end goal and it’s not going to sustain me forever.

It’s really encouraging to me that I am on the right path and that if this is something that I enjoy it something I should keep doing. While this may or may not happen, if I can take 11 minutes off my time, I could really launch a new chapter in my running career. That would be the most competitive I’ve ever been. My biggest goal from here is to, of course, place high at the Trials.

Sarah Rimel, Age 37: 2:44:16 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon B Standard)
“I made qualifying for the Olympic trials my goal two years ago. The commitment I made to myself at that time was probably the biggest factor in helping me reach my goal. I had a plan on how to get there—mileage, challenging workouts, strength training, prehab, minimizing outside stress, community support through Team Rogue, and a husband willing to lead me there. By allowing myself the time to do the work and staying consistent day-in and day-out that is ultimately how I found success. One more thing… I had people around me that believed in me and saw things that I sometimes couldn’t. And whenever someone would say something positive or encouraging, I sincerely listened and made it my truth. I never brushed it off or took it for granted. I have a family of teammates to thank for that.

Sarah Rimel

We had ideal racing weather, so we had the perfect stage. But I actually had a bad first half. At mile 12, I thought my race was over. I had to stop twice (mile 6 and mile 11) for bathroom breaks. In addition to my negative-split race plan, I had almost a minute to make-up. So, as we started the second half, what really helped pick me up and get back to a positive place was all of the support from Austin out on the course. Also, staying present in the moment. Letting go of what may or may not happen and focusing what was happening in the moment and what I could control kept my mind engaged.

[Breaking through] means that anything is possible. It reaffirms for me that I am a runner who is capable of this caliber even without the pedigree. As long as I make the commitment and put in the work, audacious goals are within the realm of possibilities.

Qualifying for the marathon Olympic trials feels like a second chance to redeem my childhood dreams.  To be able to come back to the sport again, as an adult athlete, and chase those dreams—very few people get a second chance like this—and for that I am eternally grateful.”

Upcoming Races: Saturday, December 15, Cedar Park Santa Dash 5K at 9:00 a.m., 200 Gupton Way DrCedar Park. Saturday, December 15, Jingle Bell Run 5K at 2:00 p.m., Camp Mabry, 2200 West 35th Street, Austin.

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