Updated July 12, 2016 by Larry Eder
This was a piece that we did after the Olympic Trials. Now, five weeks out, the story has even more relevance. Desi Linden, if you follow her tweets, is training well and taking names. The Olympic Marathon in Rio is a race of redemption of some sorts for Desi, as in the London Olympic Marathon, she had to drop out with an injury.
What I know of Desi is this. She is an athlete who focuses on the “unsexy” things: the daily runs, the tempo runs, the long runs. One day at a time. A successful marathon is like that. The mellow demeanor post or pre race is how she is off the roads. On the roads, Desi Linden is relentless. Just rewatch the 2011 Boston Marathon.
Her comeback from injuries was pretty amazing. Most athletes screw it up. One realizes that there was something missing as one rebuilds, but one can not put a word to it. Desi did not have to put a name on it, she just built up, and from her support group, Brooks Hansons DP, her husband, her manager, Desi found the extra encouragement she needed to make a more than complete comeback.
The Trials was a tough race, and a race that may not have gone as Desi wanted or expected, but her drive over the second half shows that Desi Linden has what it takes to do well in Rio.
We wish her much success!
We asked Cait Chock to catch up with Desi Linden, after the Olympic Marathon Trials, and write about Desi’s thoughts during and after the marathon.
This was done after Desi’s trip to Bali for a vacation, which is a good thing after the heat and pressure she endured during the Los Angeles Trials.
Des Linden Punched Her Ticket to Rio and it was “Freakin’ Fun”
By: Cait Chock
On a day that humbled most of those running the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trails, Des Linden gutted out the hardest 26.2 miles of her life. It was worth it; crossing the line in second place, the Brooks runner effectually punched her ticket to Rio.
Joining winner, Amy Hastings, and Shalane Flanagan, Linden took a quick celebratory break in Bali and is now right back to work. I caught up with the member of Team Hanson-Brooks and found out what mental tricks she relied on to power through brutal conditions, cramping, and being stuck in dreaded ‘no-man’s land’ for a large part of the race.
1) First of all CONGRATS!! The heat made for a brutal race for many out there and you’ve said that was also the hardest 26.2 miles of your life. Did you feel sort of flat from the gun, or when did you start to realize this was going to be a gruelfest?
I knew the conditions were going to set us up for a tough day, thus the more conservative race plan. Even knowing that going in, it was still incredibly difficult and challenging out there. The long unshaded stretch on Figueroa just felt like an eternity and only got ‘longer’ each lap. Heading into the final loop was probably the worst, I was getting pangs of pain bordering cramping in my quads, hamstrings and calves, but knew it was the critical moment of the race. Heading out from USC and looking up at that long stretch was probably more mentally taxing than anything.
2) Do you attribute it mostly to the heat? Are you going to be making any adjustments to your fluids/fuel strategy going into Rio?
The heat was certainly a factor but I’ve been using the same PowerGel fueling plan for some time now and thought it worked well in the conditions. It may sound strange, but I find that a flat course is a bit more challenging for me than a rolling or hilly course. On a rolling course you’re working different muscle groups and get a bit of relief depending on the ups and downs, not the case on that LA course. We’ll get a good idea of what the Rio course is going to be and make sure we replicate it in practice. If it’s another flat course, I think we’ll try and get more of my longer runs and longer workouts on a similar type course just to really prep my body.
3) Obviously the Olympics were at stake, motivation enough, but what were some of the things you focused on mentally to gut it out? You ran alone for the most part.
I’m a big believer in writing out a race plan. It basically serves as the To Do List for the day. It’s a great way to keep the mind focused on the next task and not let it wander to questions and doubts that don’t help you reach your goal. During the race I just stayed focused on the plan and getting each task done throughout the different stages of the race.
4) What were you thinking when you started catching up to, and then passing, Shalane?
Coming out of USC, I figured my place was pretty set and all I needed to do was maintain to the finish, so I kind of settled in. Midway through the stretch I could see the bikes getting closer and actually caught a glimpse of Amy looking back. It still seemed like a reach to be able to pick up one more place, but it was a nice change in my mentality; instead of hanging on to my spot I had a new objective to shoot for which allowed me to pick my pace up and breakdown the race into another segment. After I passed Shalane, I knew the work was done for the day and I was going to make the team, so I was able to soak in the excitement and really celebrate and enjoy the moment, which was pretty freakin’ fun.
5) Backing up a bit, can you tell us a little about the build-up for the Trials. Any surprises or things you did differently this training cycle?
It was a pretty typical marathon build-up, the biggest difference was spending the last 5-6 weeks of our segment in Florida. It was great to go down there as a group and really feel like we were in a training camp. It eliminated all the distractions of home and gave the feel of having that really important race on the horizon. I liked that focused approach and sense of importance and purpose.
6) Now that you’ve punched your ticket, what are you going to be doing between now and the Olympics?
I’ll squeeze in a brief segment of shorter/quicker work and hopefully get in a few fun races on the roads. After that I’ll switch back to marathon training mode: high mileage, longer workouts, no races — I think they call it the unsexy stuff.
7) And of course the big day, what do you feel you’re capable of and what are your goals going into the Olympics?
I think we have a great team and all three of us will be thinking about the podium. I felt I was 95% fit going into the trials, If I can stay healthy and build on that I think I’ll be in great position to be the fittest I’ve ever been heading into the Games, we’ll see where that lands me.
Thank you very much for your time, Des, we’ll all be cheering for you in Rio!
Caitlin Chock (caitchock.com) set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004 and previously ran for Nike. A freelance writer and artist, you can see more of her work on her website and Instagram @caitchock.