Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Olympic Marathon Trials and what comes next

I'm still on cloud nine following the Olympic Trials in Houston last week. My race was "textbook," according to my coach, and I couldn't have asked for a better place to set a five minute PR of 2:37. It was an incredible experience for me. It was also a validating experience, I have dropped 22 minutes over the past 16 months, and have gone from totally unranked nationally and unqualified for the trials to 25th place at the Olympic Trials! Oh yeah, and I was the first military person!

My immediate (and I mean immediate, I hadn't even had any water!) post-race excitement was captured in this article by Tim Hipps: http://www.army.mil/article/72075/Calway_leads_military_runners_in_U_S__Olympic_Marathon_Team_Trials

The Trials:

For starters, the event was first-class. The athlete and family support was fabulous and very well-planned. Everything from check-in, to provided food (tons of veg options and healthy stuff) and refreshments, to massage was amazing. The volunteers were awesome and everyone was super helpful.

I've never had more support before a race, my parents, husband, daughter, coach, and in-laws all made the trip to the Lone Star state just for me. And those who couldn't make it sent good luck letters, messages, and emails. It was awesome to know how many people stood behind me. Before the race, my family was super-supportive, they helped drag by bags all over Houston, juggled all of my gear for me, and even helped decorate my fluid bottles so that I could find them on the course.

Princess wands! What a great idea!

During the race, my support crew was spectacular! They spread out over the entire course with signs, cameras, and extremely loud voices! They recruited random spectators to cheer me on and tweeted my time, place, and pictures during the race. I couldn't have asked for better support. I love my family!

I've never felt so good during a taper or so ready to race before the trials. I owe most of that to my Coach, who in 3 months prepared me better than ever before. I did more miles and more long-tempo runs and a lot fewer track workouts than before. I ran through the summer heat, the 5 minute fall, and through the blizzards and crazy wind in Colorado, and Coach was with me (usually on a bike) the whole time. My last big work out before the trials I ran 2xmile and 3x 1,000 all faster than I've run in the past. We discussed the race plan several times. I knew I was ready to go.

I actually "carbo-loaded" 72 hours out from the race, which I've never done before. I thought it would be fun, but I actually thought it was a bit gross to try to get the amount of carbs necessary when I wasn't very hungry from tapering. By the time race day rolled around I felt like my whole body was oozing Gatorade. I think my eyes were even bloodshot. Needless to say, my glycogen stores were up!

I got a bit nervous the night before the trials. My first Olympic Trials! I already knew what I had to do, but I just needed to get over the pre-race butterflies. My routine helped with that, I painted my toenails, braided my hair, and still had some doubt when I climbed in to bed. Then I opened the many good luck cards from friends and family across the country. It meant so much to me that everyone took time to wish me luck and it was humbling to see how many people believed in me. How could I doubt myself? I snapped out of it, and got my race face on. And then I slept like a baby.

The Race

I knew that the level of competition in the women's field was unprecedented. Looking around in the warm up area, that was extremely apparent. There were Olympians, Medalists, NCAA champions, and a whole lot of super-fit women. When they called us up to the line, this pack of women, all of whom are used to starting with her toes on the line, crammed onto the narrow roadway. I was in about the third row from the front. When the gun sounded, along with a zillion different metallic clicks of wristwatches, the groups set in motion. At that point everyone was the same, a school of fish swimming down the asphalt. We all swam an extremely slow first mile, a 6:17 and by mile 2 we all picked it up.

First lap: Remain in control and run smart.
The field broke up into groups, the front pack, chase group, and I found myself in the second pack, something I have zero experience with. I let myself go with the group, trusting the pace, and periodically checking mile splits. I was pretty confident that it was a smart pack because I was running beside Colleen Deruck!

Second Lap: Pick it up
The group stuck together until about the half marathon point and then began to string out. At this point I knew I was feeling good and that I had to pick it up, so I went with the girls in the front. I was still in control and feeling good.

Third Lap: Race!
When I got to the start of the third lap, I knew I could achieve my goal and I knew I had enough strength to actually race. I was excited! I saw Chris at mile 21 and he was so wired, he shouted "you're beating a lot of people!" that's good, I thought, that's exactly what I came here to do! My Dad was at mile 22 and he was hollering like a crazy person! "go Kelly! You're a Brown, damn it!". My mom was just before mile 24 and she was jumping and screaming too! Coach even ran out to about mile 25 with his old school stop-watch and told me to "see how many girls I could catch!" I did catch them too, it was awesome! I passed 4 girls after that point, including Colleen Deruck, and gave it everything I had. I was ecstatic! I beat some incredible athletes out there and felt like I proved myself!

What Next?

For starters, this sets me up really well for the trials in 2016. I'll continue to work with my Coach, Mark Stanforth, and will continue to improve over the next 4 years. All I have to do is improve by 2% per year order the next 4 years. Sounds easy, but I know it'll be a lot more hard work, which would be an issue if I didn't absolutely love what I do.

More immediately, I'm going to give the 10,000 meters a shot. As a miler in college, I never raced the 10k before and I think I can fuse my remaining speed and now endurance together to do great things. The 10k will also give me an opportunity to incorporate more speed work which will benefit my marathon. Plus, I'm looking forward to hitting the track!

After the 10k, I'm going
to go do my real Army job, but I will definitely make time to continue training. I've come too far to give it up now!

Do the Little things:
-My iron (ferritin) dipped to 25 before the trials, ideally I'd like it to be at 50, so I am declaring operation Pump up the Iron! I'm even giving up coffee (for a little bit) to facilitate this. And, under the supervision of a doctor, bumping up my iron intake to 3 times daily. Hopefully, this will produce some results!

-Rest: It's going to be tough to get in all of my training while working full-time, and I can't sacrifice rest to get it all in. I've definitely learned to value sleep as a huge part of training and recovery. In order to continue to make progress, I can't skimp on it.

-Physical Therapy: I have a slight imbalance in strength on my left side due to the Achilles injury I had last year that I never properly rehabbed. I'm all over that now, which will correct an annoying issue and make me more efficient.

-Drills: those pesky things that correct inefficiencies and make me stronger. I'm going to do those more often now.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Kelly, I am so happy for you. I wish you the best in all that you do and know that I will be rooting for you the entire way!

  2. Wohooooo I'm so proud of mybig sister!!! You are amazing and an incredible example of hardwork paying off! LOVE YOU Keltron!