From Doug Binder of the Oregonian on New York City Marathon preparations by Kara Goucher of Portland and coach Alberto Salazar, who set a men’s world best in New York in 1981:
Kara Goucher: She’ll be a part of it … New York
Alberto Salazar recalls one other time when he witnessed marathon training go as smoothly as it has for Kara Goucher this fall.
That was in 1981, when Salazar, then 23, was at the top of his game and won the second of his three consecutive New York City marathons in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 13 seconds.
"Every single workout with her is faster than expected," said Salazar, Goucher’s coach. "She’s aggressive with her workouts and exceeds the goal pace by 10 seconds per mile. It’s like she can’t slow down."
On Sunday, Goucher will put her intense post-Olympics road training on the line at the New York City Marathon, her first attempt at the 26.2-mile distance.
Goucher and Salazar say they haven’t set a target finishing time. But the U.S. women’s debut marathon record of 2:26:58 set by Deena Kastor in 2001 appears within Goucher’s reach.
She is brimming with confidence as she embarks upon her first marathon, a distance where she hopes to compete with the best women in the world after eight weeks of focused preparation.
"The first couple of weeks were not welcoming at all," Goucher said. "I felt like I had pebbles in my legs. It was really hard. But the last few weeks have been so awesome, I’ve loved it."
Love wasn’t the first emotion. On one of Goucher’s first 20-mile runs, which took her through Forest Park and then south toward Council Crest, Salazar surprised her with 2 1/2 uphill miles remaining. He pulled a weighted vest from a backpack and asked her to put it on.
"I was so tired I didn’t even question it. It wasn’t fun," she said.
Yet for the past five weeks, she’s been doing the workout two or three times a week, with heavier vests.
Over the past three track seasons, Goucher, 30, has risen to prominence as one of the best 5,000-and 10,000-meter runners in the United States. She earned a bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships in the 10,000 and competed in both events at the Beijing Games.
Training for the marathon this fall has turned her focus to uncharted territory. Her husband, Adam Goucher, a national class runner, has taken a break from competition and has been available to support Kara and assist with her workouts.
"Adam has taken up all the slack around the house," Kara Goucher said. "All I do is run, eat and sleep. It’s really rewarding to see what I’ve been able to get from my body."
But Salazar has studied her biomechanics long enough to believe that Goucher’s best chance of winning an Olympic medal at the 2012 London Games is in the marathon.
Goucher’s low, compact stride and strong upper body give her an advantage in bracing against the physical pounding of the marathon distance, Salazar said.
After two difficult weeks getting used to the pavement, Goucher’s legs recovered, and her ability to exceed Salazar’s workout plan took over.
"It happened to me like that in ’81," Salazar said. "The same way it’s been for her the last six weeks."
Salazar devised drills to deal with every aspect of the marathon, including how to gather water bottles and tubes of carbohydrate gel off tables without losing stride, something Goucher has never done.
"Two months ago I was intimidated by the distance, by the workload," Goucher said. "Now that I’ve adjusted to it, I hope the race goes well because I’ve loved training for it so much."
The race also will be a chance for Goucher to experience high-level competition in the city where she was born. Goucher lived in New York until she was 4, when her father was killed in a traffic accident in Manhattan. She moved with her mother and siblings to Duluth, Minn., where she was raised with the help of her grandparents.
"I just want to compete well, not give in at any moment, and get the most out of my body that I can," Goucher said. "And I’d like to finish as high as possible."