Boulder runner Joanna Zeiger to compete in sixth U.S Olympic trials
Joanna Zeiger knows her chances of earning a ticket to London in today’s Olympic trials for the marathon aren’t very good. In fact, the Boulder runner concedes she pretty much has no shot.
“They’re probably zero unless the top 100 people go off course or they get food poisoning or somebody does a Nancy Kerrigan on them,” Zeiger said this week before traveling to Houston for the race. “I totally understand that my chances of making the team are nil. I’m going for the experience, to be part of something really awesome.”
Zeiger, 41, will achieve something remarkable today no matter where she finishes. She will be competing in her sixth Olympic trials, in three different sports.
Zeiger competed in the swimming trials in 1988 (at age 18) and qualified for the swimming trials in 1992 but could not compete because of a shoulder injury. In 2000, she competed in both the marathon Olympic trials and the triathlon trials. She made the team in triathlon, competing in the first Olympic triathlon in Sydney.
“It was amazing,” she said of her Olympic experience, which took place in and around Sydney Harbor, with the transition zone at the famous Sydney Opera House. “It was a spectacular backdrop. Triathlon is not really a spectator sport, but on that day, there were thousands and thousands and thousands of people out watching the race. It was really hard for me to concentrate on the road, because I kept looking around – at the view and the people, trying to take it all in.”
She also competed in the triathlon trials in 2004 and 2008.
There are two reasons today’s race is so exciting for Zeiger. Normally the men’s and women’s marathon Olympic trials are held in different cities on different days, but this year they will be held concurrently on the same course.
“It’s going to be kind of a festival of distance running,” Zeiger said, “and I want to be part of that.”
The other reason is more personal. Zeiger’s triathlon career effectively ended in November 2009 during the half Ironman world championships in Clearwater, Fla. Competing as the defending champion, Zeiger crashed on her bike in a mishap during a water-bottle exchange.
She fractured rib cartilage and injured soft tissue in the crash. Now her ribs are “hyper mobile,” and she can’t ride a bike because the aerodynamic riding position pinches off her rib cage and makes it hard to breathe.
“I started running because that seemed to bother the ribs less,” Zeiger said. “I had a few successful races and decided, OK, I want to go back to the Olympic trials.”
To qualify for the trials, Zeiger had to run the marathon faster than 2 hours, 46 minutes. At the Cal International Marathon on Dec. 4 in Sacramento, Calif., she ran 2:43:48 – a lifetime best at age 41.
“It gave me so much motivation in 2011 to just keep running to try to get that standard and to achieve something I didn’t know if I could,” Zeiger said. “That to me was just such an awesome goal to try to work for. Whether or not I achieved it was a different story, but just the act and the process was something that was motivating for me.”
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