Experiencing The Trials

Last March, sitting outside the Thirsty Lion Gastropub in Tempe, Ariz., a plan began to unfold.

It was a long-range plan.

Buoyed by an unforgettable, if not life-changing, experience at New York, I was ready to embrace my return to the marathon.

A few years earlier, an uninspiring effort at Twin Cities had me ready to call it quits, and instead turn attention to triathlons. Then came a move to Grand Forks, the death of my golden retriever Riley, and significant loss of fitness.

But securing a spot in the 2014 New York City Marathon, a few years in waiting, motivated me. It took 5 full months, and a significant running streak, to get back in decent shape. And a blustery, cold day couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm or joy in running through the 5 boroughs — and energized me to once again believe in possibilities.

Sipping a tall glass of Left Hand Milk Stout, I sent a message to Eric Loeffler, who ran a blistering half marathon to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles.

The long-range plan included trips to the 2015 St. George Marathon and now Los Angeles, where I could cheer for him and run the LA Marathon the following day.

Moments after St. George last October, the long-range plan continued to build on itself. After Los Angeles, there needed to be other races on the horizon — and my research into various races proved extensive. Finally, I settled on a contingency plan, one that could lead to running 2 to 4 marathons this year.

First, I need to tackle Los Angeles, which became a tedious chore considering the physical punishment from toll St. George and difficulty training through the winter.

So, on Sunday, I will toe the line in Los Angeles, nowhere near my endurance fitness or mileage volume for my last two marathons but a decent dose of interval training on the treadmill, which kept my weight in check despite fewer miles.

My trip to Los Angeles, which offers anything but a course designed for personal records, isn’t about a fast time. It’s about atmosphere, watching the Marathon Trials, and supporting a friend who quietly and humbly earned a spot competing against America’s top marathoners.

It’s a chance to watch an ultra competitive field of women and men chase spots to run at the Olympic Games in Rio later this summer. Among the mass of spectators, I’ll cheer for Olympic hopefuls: Eric, Heidi Greenwood and Kara Goucher, who grew up in Duluth, Minn.

For several weeks, the LA Marathon has symbolized a bridge for what’s in store for the remainder of 2016. Even now, with uncertainty which races I’ll run this year, there are possibilities.

Since moving to Grand Forks, I’ve finally made it through January without injury, in large part to spending the winter on the treadmill. In a few more weeks, spring will arrive, and my footstrikes will return to the pavement and gravel roads on a journey to chase the possibilities.

And then my path will be set — but not before the sunny beaches of California, where I rekindle the dream of running fast for miles.