Tommorrow morning in Houston is the bid day for US Marathoners as they try to become the first members of the USA Track & Field's Olympic Teams. The race will take off at 7:00 a.m. Mountain Time for the men and 7:15 a.m. for the women. The race will take place on a multiple loop course - first loop of 2.2 miles around downtown Houston, then 3 8-mile loops around downtown and Allen parkway to the west of downtown.
Race day conditions look fantastic at this point. Prediction of mid-30's for the low in the morning, warming up to only the high 50's or low 60's in the afternoon - so, it should be clear and crisp for the entirety of the race. Very light winds from the south at 5 mph shouldn't be a factor.
So, the big question - who will make the team. Just so that you can say you saw it here first, here are the Muddy Buzzard's predictions:
I'm feeling pretty good about the first two slots - after that, it gets a little more sketch. But, here goes.
First Place: Ryan Hall. He's clearly the man of the moment in US Marathoning. Since his big sub-1:00 1/2-Marathon in Houston several years ago and his run to the 2008 Oly Trials win, Hall has been the class of the field on the US scene. It's his race to lose - even on a bad day, when you have sub-2:05 speed, I'm just not sure he can be beat.
Second Place: Dathan Ritzenheim. A great talent with 60:00/2:10:00 PR's. He seems to be reasonably healthy and is probably the biggest potential threat to Hall. Again, a place on the team is his to lose.
Third Place: This is where I think it get's interesting. After the two big boys, it gets a lot more cloudy with no dominant person to fill this slot. But, I'm going to go with Brett Gotcher of the McMillan Elite squad. He debuted with a mid-2:10 PR. He flies under the radar a bit; but, he had some solid races earlier this year at the US 10-Mile and 20K; and, ran well in Decmber's Club Championship XC race. I think that he just may be ready to pop the big one.
Dark Horse: Mo Trafeh. A serious talent with some speed. But, he's never raced beyond the half marathon. And, not sure that the trials is the place to debut. Just don't think he has the patience or marathon tactics to pull it off. I predict a DNF (after being with the lead group through about 20 miles). But, if he pulls it off and Ritz or Hall stumble, he could very well be on the team.
Sentimental Favorite: Meb Keflezghi. 2004 silver medalist. First American to win NYC (2009) since Salazar. But, he's getting bit older at 36 and he just ran New York in November (albeit in a PR). As much as I would love to see it happen, I just don't think that Meb's older legs will be ready to bounce back with the type of effort that will be needed to make the team.
Winning Time: 2:08:28 (4:54 pace)
Time to Make the Team: 2:10:39 (4:59 pace)
Again, I think the front end is pretty clearly defined, unless one of the front runner's stumbles. So, here goes.
Winner: Desiree Davilla. The Hanson-Brooks runner, Boston Marathon suprise second placer and 2009 Worlds top ten finisher has been on a roll of late. Besides her great marathoning, she was also a top ranked American at 5,000 and 10,000 meters (setting PR's in both races). I see a race between her and Flanagan for the win - with Desi cranking it over the last couple of miles to put a stamp on the race - kind of the Hanson's
Second Place: Shalane Flanagan. 2:28 PR and US Record Holder at 10K. Perhaps more of a talent than Desi, she could easily be the winner. But, I see her being a bit wiser and a bit more patient than Davilla (as would be expected by a Jerry Schumacher coached athlete) and not going to the well just to get a win. I think she'll comfortably make the team and save her dig-til-you-puke effort in running for a podium finish in London.
Thrid Place: Deena Kastor. Bronze Medalist in 2004. Trials Champ in 2008. Quite since then. But, she appears to be as fit as many of the girls out there and is "under-raced" over the last couple of years. So, I'm thinking that her experience, race smarts and guts will be enough to carry her on to one last Oly team.
Most Likely To Make The Team If One Of The Front Runner's Falls Apart: Kara Goucher. 2:24 PR. She had a good Boston after coming back from maternity leave. But, since then she hasn't really been the same. Not sure that she has the sharpness needed to make te team unless some breaks go her way.
Dark Horse: Amy Hastings. 2:27:03 PR. She trains with the Mammoth Lakes group and they know how to get ready for the big races. Meb and Deena will surely give her some pointers. She could be the suprise of the day.
My Personal Sentimental Favorite For A Top 10 Finsih: Caroline White. 2:37 PR. Caroline is the sister in law of my old pal Kelly Fulton (sister of Kelly's wife Liz). She is a US Air Force pilot who currently trains full time in their Armed Forces program. A super stud, she's training at levels far beyond what she has been able to sustain in the past. If she runs a smart race and PR's into the low 2:30's - anything is possible.
My Personal Senitmental Favorite For A PR: Sarah Graves. Our very own Montanan - born and bred. Lives in Ballantine - runs for Brooks and the Yellowstone Rim Runners. See my January 7th blog entry for some more about Sarah. She's represents all that's good about running - my hope is that we see her scoring another PR and having the race of her life.
Winning Time: 2:26:00 (5:34 pace)
Time To Make The Team: 2:28:55 (5:40+ pace and the Buzzard's PR)
Speaking of Kelly Fulton - he is in Houston to watch sister-in-law Caroline, 3 college teammates and competitors, and Sarah Graves. I expect to get some race day input from him and will post his observations this weekend.
Go Red White and Blue
The Muddy Buzzard