After missing the 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying mark by less than 30 seconds – TWICE – in 2003, Marie Sample wasn’t about to make the same mistakes in 2007. After a heart-to-heart talk with her husband this summer, the 31-year old Marshall resident upped her mileage like never before. She was rewarded with over a two minute PR and, more importantly, that ever-elusive OTM qualifier. With the help of Charlie Mahler of Down the Backstretch, we were able to get some answers from Marie on her race, her training, and where she hopes to go from here. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Kryduba)
First off, congrats on your Olympic Trials qualifier at the California International Marathon (CIM). What was your PR prior to the race?
2:48.14 (chip time)
What was your race plan?
My race plan was to get qualified. I have been very humbled by this distance. This was only my sixth marathon but I have realized that even-pacing throughout the run is the best way for me to race. Therefore, I wanted to run a 6:18 to 6:20 pace the entire race. I hoped to feel good enough to pick it up the last 6 miles or so.
How did your race play itself out?
I ended up starting a little fast because of the big down hills. I knew there were about 25 other women there trying to qualify, but I also felt that many of them were going to go out too hard and that they would pay later.
There were basically two packs of women. I ran in the smaller pack that was just behind the big pack of women. All of the people - guys and gals alike - fell off my pack and I found myself running alone around mile 10. I could see the pack in front of me, but I also was bucking quite a headwind on my own which made it difficult to try to catch them. I ended up running alone from there on out.
I felt pretty beat at mile 15 and I was still bucking the headwind. However, I just kept with the plan and hoped my body would recover a bit. It did recover and I felt like a new person at mile 18 after slamming two power gels and drinking a bunch of Ultima. I started catching that lead pack. I heard a guy yell, "You need a 20 minute 5K to qualify.” I was feeling great at that point and I knew I had the qualifier in hand.
This was the best race I have ever run in my life and certainly the most rewarding. I did what I set out to do. The finish was a 3-block horseshoe. I was bound and determined not to turn the last corner and see that the clocked had just flipped past the qualifying time (2:47). I have done that twice before and that is tough watch. This time, when I made the left hand turn to start sprinting the last 100 yards, I saw 2:45.43. Tears were already rolling. It’s a dream come true!
This wasn’t your first attempt at qualifying for the trials. In 2004 the standard was 2:48 and on two occasions you narrowly missed by running 2:48:28 and 2:48:21 (gun times). Did you ever petition the USATF to let you in?
I didn't petition. A friend of mine mentioned trying that because I was so close but I didn't feel I deserved to be there because I hadn't made the qualifying time.
What did you learn from those near misses that you applied, either to your training or your race strategy, this time around?
I learned that I could do it but I needed to work harder.
In early August I had a heart-to-heart talk with my husband, Dave. I told him that I still felt like I needed to take a shot at qualifying. I also told him that I am going to have to work a lot harder and that I planned to work my way up to 100-mile weeks. He said, "I'm behind you 100 percent. Quit your job you have too, take naps whenever you can and get your training in. You can and will do this."
So, I cut back my hours at the Y but still kept coaching cross country at Marshall High School. I ran at 4am before work. I would come home at 11:30am and then head out for a run while Dave was on his lunch hour. Then I would grab a nap that would sometimes only be 15 minutes before heading out to cross country practice. I would run their track workouts with them and I would also run their regular runs with them.
How would you describe the rest of your 2007 season?
I have been on and off competitive running the past few years. My husband and I wanted a family and so we have taken time to do that. I had started my marathon training again January of 2007. I ran a decent run at Human Race (29:45) but then developed tendonitis in my knee that just wouldn't go away. I wasn't getting enough sleep at night and I was really just trying to cram in whatever workout I could get.
I had originally hoped to try to Qualify at Grandma's but the tendonitis kept me from running enough miles. It was hot also, but that is not why I ran so poorly (3:05). I was pretty discouraged after Grandma's. I still had this dream to qualify but I was starting to wonder if I was going to be able to figure out how to get that done. I ran a few local and smaller races in June and July while running 50 to 55 mile weeks.
I won the Sioux Falls half marathon on September 9th with a 1:23.16. (One minute slower than my first half of the marathon in Sacramento). I kept training and then 6 days later won a 10K in 37:01 on a very windy day. The following weekend I won the Jack 15 in Brookings South Dakota. My last race before CIM was the Twin Cities 10 mile race where I ran 1:01.16.
At that point I was gaining confidence and I decided to zero in on a marathon to race. I picked Sacramento for a couple reasons. I had been told that the course is well run, the weather is usually favorable, and that it can be fast. My sister and her family also live there and we never see them. It was also in early December, which gave me more time to pack on the miles and to do speedwork on the track.
Did you find it difficult training for a December marathon?
I don't mind running in the cold and wind. I train in wind here year round. The part that made it the most challenging was the short hours of daylight. It was dark when I ran in the morning and dark in the evenings. My track workouts had to be run over the noon hour while Dave was at home watching the girls. The weather in Sacramento was a treat after training in the cold weather here.
Can you explain your training briefly; length of your training cycle, mpw, key workouts, etc.?
I basically accomplished this goal by running high mile weeks, doing mile repeats on the track once and sometimes twice a week, tempo runs, long runs on the weekends, and some days of 10 miles at 4am before work followed by 10 miles at 11:30am after work.
Marshall is very flat so I ran 10 to 15 mile hill runs at Camden State Park. I traveled to Dave's parent's house in Madison, SD for my weekend long runs because it is very hilly there and I have great memories of running there in college.
You were able to hit 100 mpw five times during the month of October. Was that new territory for you or had you run that kind of mileage before? If it was new territory, what was your mindset like at the time (i.e. was there concern for injury or overtraining or were you just “going for it” no matter what)?
Yes, 100-mile weeks were certainly new territory. The biggest week I logged prior to that was 66 miles. I briefly thought about injury, but mostly thought about pushing my body as hard as I could and then resting it so it could recover and rebuild. I was definitely "going for it" but I was also careful. I know you need to rest in-between hard workouts so I would take naps when I could.
I also ate about as healthy as one person could eat. I would make vegetable stir-fry 5 to 6 times a week. I ate egg whites for extra protein. I ate lots of whole grain carbs when needing energy. I also became the lightest and most fit I have ever been in my life. Dave gave me massages almost every evening. My hamstrings were really my only concern. They were pretty tight right before I started my taper. However, I recovered nicely during the taper.
You were a decent enough runner in high school to qualify for the 1993 state cross country meet. However, I get the impression that you never considered yourself a runner until you happened to bump into your (future) husband, Dave, while at Dakota State University. Would you agree and how did that chance meeting change things for you?
Meeting Dave and his dad changed my life and my outlook on life forever. I didn't consider myself anything special until I met them. They saw something I didn't and made me feel like I could reach whatever goals I set in my life. Instead of people telling me that I couldn't do things, Dave and his dad were busy telling me I "could" do things.
Where I grew up, people judged you on your family's success. Both of my parents spent a lot of their lives thinking they weren't smart enough and/or good enough. I grew up with similar feelings about myself but the difference is that I wanted more and I wanted to break out of that cycle.
Fortunately, I was able to get out of town and go to college. That is where I met Dave and where my life changed forever. These things didn't just happen by chance. This was part of a higher and much bigger plan.
What are you doing right now and what’s your training plan prior to the Trials?
I am resting - shorter easy runs and some cross training - through Christmas. That being said, I couldn't help myself from running 4 miles at 6:15 pace recently. It just felt so good to run that fast.
After Christmas, I am going to push back into higher mileage that will include tempo runs, pace runs, mile repeats, hill workouts, and long runs. My goal is to run faster times than I ran this fall and to continue to improve. I would really like to see how much tougher I can make myself by taper time at the beginning of April.
You’ve obviously made sacrifices, like cutting back your work schedule and 4 AM wake-up calls in order to train. Is this a one-time accomplishment to say you’ve “been there, done that” or do you see yourself continuing on with your sacrifices to see just how good you can be?
This isn't a one-time accomplishment. Life is about making sacrifices if you want to improve. I will continue to work my training in around my work and family responsibilities. I have cut my work hours way back but I stay there for a couple reasons. I love people and love to help them. 13 years ago, I started to learn about love and giving even when you don't have too. Dave's dad sacrificed many hours to help me train and to tutor me in Math - just to name a few. It has been a continual education since I ran into those two guys. I married my best friend and I gained a new dad.
I am very encouraged by what I have just experienced and I want to see just how good I can be. I really think I have just scratched the surface on how hard I can work and what I can accomplish. I took some downtime on and off since college to have my 3 daughters and now I can work on my running. I see myself only getting stronger both physically and mentally. God willing, the next few years should be very productive with a lot of hard work, which will hopefully result in some big PR's.
What will I be able to do with three more months of high miles? How about three more years of high miles? Could I run a 2:33 marathon if I continue to adapt my training and work this hard? I'm starting to think the sky is the limit. I have a very supportive family, a lot of drive and desire, and faith that God will give me the strength to do whatever I put my mind too.
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
Strengths - Self Discipline. Determination. I am not afraid of hard work. I have the best support crew in the world. I have faith that God will give me the strength to do whatever I set my mind too. Even if I fall short of what I was shooting for, I want to be able to say I gave it my best and I worked as hard as I could have. My family will still love me in the end.
Weaknesses - I train on my own because there is nobody else here that can keep up. I bug a few of my friends for running and training advice but I don't have anyone putting a concrete plan together for me. I e-mailed Gloria Jansen just for some reassurance on the taper 3 weeks before the CIM. I am trying to learn as much as I can about how the body works and how to train it the best way possible to race the marathon. I'm still learning. I could learn more.
What are your PRs?
800m - 2:20
1500m - 4:42
3000m - 9:52
5K - 17:21
8K - 29:45
10K - 35:45
10 mile - 1:01.16
Half - 1:18.51
25K - 1:35
Marathon - 2:45.58
Do you have a favorite local and/or national race?
I really like racing in the Twin Cities for some reason. They do such a great job putting on their races. I, plain and simply, just love to race. I love to test my limits and to try to improve. That is how I live my life. I need to keep improving no matter what it is I am doing. The Twin Cities Marathon is special to me because that was my second complete marathon but my first attempt at qualifying for the Trials. Even tough I didn't qualify; it was there that I first felt like I could qualify.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
Part of me wishes I would have known more about my talent. A lot of that goes back to what I said before regarding where I grew up and how people judged you.