With only 70 days between the ING New York City Marathon and the Olympic Trials Marathon, Meb Keflezighi – trying to make his third Olympic team – knew there wasn’t time for anything to go wrong.
Something went wrong, although everything seems to be going right again.
During a media teleconference on Thursday, the 36-year-old 2004 Olympic silver medalist cited an errant nasal strip as the cause of a foot irritation and subsequent infection that forced him to take extra time off from training for the Trials after finishing sixth in New York.
The night before New York, he explained, he organized his racing gear and put the nasal strip in his left shoe so that he would know where it was. Unfortunately, he left it there.
“I felt at Mile 1 that oops, it’s not on my nose,” he said sheepishly.
The mishap, along with knee swelling from overcompensation and a slight cold, turned a planned week-to-10-day rest into a layoff of “at least” three weeks, Keflezighi said. At times, he said, he wondered if there would be enough time. “But it’s part of life,” he said. “You never know what bumps in the road you’re going to get.”
Keflezighi resumed training on Dec. 5. People had been warning him not to run too fast too soon after New York, he said, so maybe the injury was a blessing in disguise.
“I just had to start very slow with a three-mile jog to a four-mile jog, then a six-mile jog,” he said, thankful that the Mammoth Lakes winter has been mild and low on snow. “Seventy days is always a challenge – and now, three weeks less than that to see if I can do it.”
Keflezighi is confident that his New York performance will put him in good stead, regardless of the setback: despite the foot issue and difficulty keeping fluids down when the pack was running a 2:06 pace, he nonetheless set a personal best of 2:09:13. Asked what he thought he would need to run in Houston, he said “probably 2:08 or 2:09.” When asked to clarify if he was referring to winning or making the team, he chuckled: “Maybe both. It will be a close race, I think.”
“I was in great shape going into New York,” he said. “I’m just going to rely on that, and on my 20-plus years of a running career. You don’t lose the fitness and you’re not starting from scratch.”
Asked if he felt some pressure, he countered: “The pressure’s whatever you put on yourself.” He takes heart thinking back to 2005, when he was in phenomenal 10K shape before rupturing a quadriceps muscle and taking a month off before finishing third in New York on only eight weeks of training.
With about a week to go, he said, “I feel good about my chances.”
In keeping with his routine of remaining at altitude in Mammoth Lakes as long as possible, Keflezighi won’t arrive in Houston until Thursday night before the Saturday morning race. With him will be the wife and daughters – Sara, 5; Fiyori, 3; and Yohana, who will turn 2 on January 17 – who supported, encouraged, consoled, and distracted him since New York.
“I’ve been here for Thanksgiving,” he said. “I’ve been here for Christmas. Vacation starts on January 15.”
By Barbara Huebner