Oh, enjoy the story!
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
"I'm 100 percent right now," Desiree Davila tells you.
Feeling great, feeling strong, feeling buoyant, the California-reared. Arizona-schooled, Michigan-trained, 5-foot-2, 28-year-old star of the Hanson Racing Team has run off to Florida for her final training sessions en route to the USA Olympic Marathon Trial in Houston, January 14, 2012.
If the race was to be held tomorrow, she'd be ready. With the race still a month-plus away, she'll be even readier. As the time clock to the starting gun - to be fired at exactly 8:15 a.m. on the second Saturday of the year - continues to count down, her preparation level continues to climb up and up.
This is the "peaking" process that every world-class athlete must master. It's not what anyone has ever done previously. Press clippings have no value. Stats lists are irrelevant. It's very-very simple and straightforward. It's what that athlete is going to deliver "on the day."
And what a day it will be, what an event it figures to produce. With the men going off at 8 a.m. and the women a quarter-hour later - the first time the dual trials will be held same place, same day - the media masses will be hard-pressed to keep up with the evolving story lines.
The USA has sent four eventual winners off to Olympic marathons - dating back to Thomas Hicks at St. Louis in 1904, Johnny Hayes at London in 1908, Frank Shorter at Munich in 1972, and Joan Benoit (now Samuelson) at Los Angeles in 1984.
Is there a fifth stepping to the line in Houston Jan. 14th?
Not very likely in the men's race - where Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi seem to be the class of the pack, but minutes behind current world-leading pace..
But who knows what might transpire in the women's race?
Even with the great Paula Radcliffe (whose world record of 2:15:25 dates back to 2003) now on the comeback trail (as a mom-of-daughter Isla and son Raphael)) and such top candidates as Liliya Shobukohova of Russia (2:18:20 this year), Mary Jepkosgei (2:19:19) and Florence Jebet Kiplagat (2:19:44) of Kenya, Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia (2:21:59) and a flock of others waiting in the wings, there is no clearcut favorite for the 26.2 mile race through London.
Such is the depth in Kenya and Ethiopia that many from those nations occupying high spots on the year lists will not be on the premises.
"The Big One" will start - at The Mall, directly fronting Buckingham Palace - at precisely 11 a.m. on the 5th of August.
Only some extraordinary occurrence in Houston figures to keep Davila away from that scenario as one of the three proud USA delegates.
Even with such redoubtables as Shalane Flanagan, Kara Gouher, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, Amy Hastings, Stephanie Rothstein, Clara Grandt and Deena Kastor arrayed against her, expert opinion is that Davila will be a top candidate to win the run through Houston.
Back in 2008, the virtually unknown Davila - who'd prepped at California's Hilltop High School and had a less-than-commanding career at Arizona State University - attracted her first real attention from the distance running gurus when she got as close as fourth place at one stretch of the Olympic Marathon Trial, before "panicking," as she put it, and sliding back to 13th place in 2:37:50.
She is not about to repeat the mistakes that cost her dearly four years ago, She's got the experience now that assures she won't let the "little things" that built into major problems get to her. She is a truly battle-toughened young vet of the distance game ready to duke it out with any rival, foreign or domestic.
Oh, some cynics may allege that her startling second place in the 2011 Boston Marathon - just nosed out by Kenya's Caroline Cheptanui Kilel, 2:22:36 to 2:22:38, proves little. For one thing, conditions were virtually perfect and the pacing situation likewise. For another, they say, that 2:22:38 came "out of the blue" and might be difficult to repeat, For a third, the classic Hopkinton-to-Boston route has now been ruled ineligible for record purposes since it's a net downhill of 136.29 meters.
But pay those negativists no heed.
More than anything, that Boston performance proved that Davila can really, truly run with the best.
She has the speed, the talent and now - after years of build-up - the confidence needed to run at the highest level. Marathon aside, she snared a 31:37 fourth place in the 10,000 meters at the USA Nationals in Eugene last June. She's zooming in on 15 flat for the 5,000.
"Training's going really well," she tells you.
She's still into the "high mileage" phase of her Houston preparations, but will soon back down to the "sharpness" phase, which will include some quality miling on the track.
Best guess is that a pack of least eight to 10 will fight it out for the lead, for at least halfway through the three-loop course, and that some complete longshots (among them the "wild cards" who've posted qualifying times at the half-marathon or 10K distances, rather than the full 26.2-miler) will be among them.
And that's where Davila, long since graduated from the "rookie" category, armed with the savvy of a young veteran, figures to start making her big move.
By 23-24 miles, it may be down to a precious few.
With everything then on the line, Desiree Davila promises that she won't let that precious moment escape her.