Cautioned to expect hot weather in Los Angeles on Saturday for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, top contender Desiree Linden spent six weeks training in Orlando, Fla., with the Hansons-Brooks running group.
"I feel confident that we are pretty well prepared for it," she said, "but 80s, you still need to make adjustments, and we'll do that once we know the exact temperatures."
Luke Puskedra, who has the third-best men's qualifying time, chose a different and unusual plan.
"I stayed in Eugene, Ore., and just turned the thermostat in my house up to 80, so hopefully it's 80," he said Thursday. "I overdo everything. When they say it's going to be 75 I'll think, 'All right, I'll put this thing at 80 and wear as many layers as I can while I'm training inside.' My wife didn't enjoy it as much as I did."
He employed the strategy for afternoon cycling sessions, not indoor running workouts. "I wouldn't recommend it to anybody else," he said. "There were some times it was kind of stupid. If you're going to be dumb, you've got to be tough, right?"
Physical and mental toughness will be crucial Saturday because of the unseasonable heat. One hundred and sixty-eight men have declared their intention to toe the line at 10:06 a.m. at Gilbert Lindsay Plaza, and 202 women have declared they will be there for a 10:22 a.m. start. Channel 4 will provide live coverage. The top three men and top three women will be nominated to the U.S. team for the Rio Summer Olympics.
Jill Geer, chief public affairs officer for USA Track and Field, said organizers discussed changing the start times but believe that won't be necessary. She said they will be guided by the American College of Sports Medicine's composite temperature measurement called the wet bulb globe temperature, which calculates athletes' risk based on the temperature, wind, humidity, dew point and ambient heat. When the temperature was 87 degrees at 1:25 p.m. on Wednesday the wet bulb globe temperature was 67.3, she said, "which is well below that threshold because the humidity isn't that high."
She added, "We've been monitoring it. We'll make sure our medical providers at the finish are prepared in case anyone does have any heat stress. And Saturday is supposed to be a bit cooler."
Conditions will be similar to those likely to prevail in Rio. The historic average for Aug. 14, the day of the women's race, is a low of 66, high of 78 and 70-75% humidity. Those numbers are the same for Aug. 21, the day of the men's race. Both will start at 9:30 a.m. local time.
"It's hot here. It's going to be hot and humid in Rio," Puskedra said of staging the trials in Los Angeles. "You try and figure out who's going to be the best team."
Puskedra, a lanky 6 feet 4, raised his competitive profile last October when he finished fifth in the Chicago Marathon in 2 hours 10 minutes 24 seconds, the fastest American time in 2015. He almost gave up running and moved to Eugene after his wife, Trudie, was hired as a tennis pro at a local club. Hanging around the running community there rekindled his competitive instincts; battling to regain his old form has toughened him.
"I think the harder the race is, the better for me," he said, adding that he expects a time of 2:08 to 2:10 to be necessary to make the team. "There's a lot of guys with good track speed but sometimes it doesn't correlate."
Linden made the 2012 U.S. team after a stunning 2:22:38 runner-up finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon but had to drop out early in the London Olympic marathon because of hip pain, later traced to a femoral stress fracture. She divides her career into pre- and post-London and said she's still not at her peak despite grinding weeks of running 125 miles and "being ridiculously tired and wanting to fall asleep in your soup." The memory of unfinished business in London will motivate her Saturday.
"It's something that has got me out the door every day," she said. "That's something I'm not super proud of, stepping off the course. It was really hard. It was heartbreaking and I would like to replace that with a better experience."
Mayor Eric Garcetti, speaking at the kickoff news conference, seized the chance to promote L.A.'s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. "We hope this is the beginning of a long collaboration with USA Track and Field and the Olympics," he said. "We believe in this town. I believe it to be and will continue to be the ideal location for any future Olympic events."