On February 29th, 2020, for the first time in club history, Strawberry Canyon Track Club will have athletes competing in the US Olympic Trials. In Atlanta, Georgia, Megan Gentes and Julia Sizek, both running in their second career marathons, will line up with the best distance runners in the country, in a race all of us are excited to watch.
Both Megan and Julia debuted at the marathon distance just a few months ago in October, hitting their qualifying standards at the Chicago Marathon with respective times of 2:41:03 and 2:41:58 – well under the 2:45:00 cutoff. Both took a brief period of rest to recover from the race, and then dove right back into training for the Trials. In general, their buildups have gone well, but have not been without their challenges.
“As it turns out, there’s not actually that much time between the races, so it was back up and running by mid-November!” said Julia speaking of quick the turn-around. “I’ve in general felt pretty good about this buildup, but a little injury-y after Kaiser [a tune-up half marathon in San Francisco], so I’m watching out for my body, as always.”
Megan similarly has had some bumps in the road but had put in a solid block of training. “I took a few days off after Chicago and then wasn’t really able to start ramping up mileage and doing workouts until late November. There were also a couple small issues in the buildup; my hip was giving me some trouble in the middle of January but has mostly gone away. I was still able to get in some 100 mile weeks with solid runs though so I’m pretty happy overall!”
SCTC Coach Carl Rose remains extremely optimistic for their prospects on race day. “Megan and Julia are very well-prepared and ready to take on the extreme challenge of a red hot race environment. Both have looked extremely relaxed in workouts. They’re not pressing and clipping along at 6-flat pace for tempos.”
Coach Carl has also thrown in some challenging workouts which Megan and Julia responded to well. Long power runs at Lake Merced, under the watchful eye of Carl and assistant coach Ernie Rivas, provided a solid backbone for their training cycles. For Julia, it was an 8 x mile workout that, while tiring, was a true testament to her fitness. For Megan, easily rolling through 800 on/off tempos under 6-minute pace was the true confidence booster.
The course in Atlanta, which features constant rolling terrain over three-loops, will be a challenging one for all athletes. “We have done some things to simulate the course (rolling, choppy hills) at Atlanta and that should help but they might not even need it,” Carl told us. “For those who don’t know it, both Megan and Julia are straight up assassins on hills. In my opinion, they will be a couple minutes faster than the pure track specialists who get the deer-in-headlights look with the hills. Another fun fact at Chicago is they went out in 1:22 and came back in 1:19. So there was room to spare there.”
In a race that will be hyper-competitive and consisting of approximately 500 women, both Megan and Julia are going in with the mindset to have as much fun as possible and enjoy the experience. “I’ll try to run sorta quick but my main goal is to have fun!” said Megan of her race day ambitions. “I’m most likely not going to make the Olympic Team, so I’m just going to make the most of this experience. Hopefully I can make some new friends too like I did in Chicago!” For Julia, it’s also straight forward, as she aims to “mostly just to get through to the finish line in some sort of speedy time.” Time is not everything, of course; “it would be great to run decently fast, and I’m looking forward to getting to hang out with lots of fast people.”
All things considered, Coach Carl gives us a true insight for what to expect. “I promise you this, our runners will compete ferociously and compete well. They will punch well above their weight, turn a lot of heads, and leave it all out on the course. I also think it will be hugely beneficial for them to hang together for at least part of the race. They can support each-other in real-time. Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be quite special.”
Megan and Julia, who also happen to be the club’s President and Secretary respectively, are not only two of the fastest Berries, but are also cornerstone members of the SCTC family, and no matter the outcome, we couldn’t be more proud of them! Good luck in Atlanta!
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Post written with contributions from Colin Gannon and Emma Krasovich, with Q&A responses from Megan, Julia, and Carl via email.