Olympics or bust | SierraSun.com

Olympics or bust

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun

Courtesy Victah SailerGia Mandy of Truckee competes in her first-ever marathon, the Chevron Houston Marathon, in January. Mandy qualified for Sunday's Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston.

Truckee’s Gia Mandy has run exactly one marathon in her life, and it was fast enough to qualify for Sunday’s Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston. After that she’ll have two under her belt.

An experienced runner with an impressive track record racing shorter- to middle-distance events, Mandy, 29, was persuaded by her sponsors to compete in the Houston Marathon on Jan. 18. So she gave it a go, despite the fact that she had never raced beyond 21 miles.

The decision paid off, as Mandy finished sixth with a time of 2:43:50 ” more than 3 minutes ahead of the 2:47:00 Trials cutoff.

Now she’s in Boston along with the other 180 American women ” minus the no-shows ” who completed a USATF-sanctioned marathon within the qualifying standard between Jan. 1 and March 23. Mandy’s time ranked 68th out of the 181 qualifiers.

“I guess I have moments where I’m nervous, but I’m getting more excited than anything to lay it all on the line and run hard,” Mandy said Tuesday while waiting for a plane in Philadelphia. …

“I feel more balanced going into this race than I was at the Houston Marathon. I bumped up a lot of stuff (training-wise).”

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Since Houston, Mandy said she’s been running about 70 miles a week while focusing mostly on speed and strength training, or “high-intensity” work. That means sprinting on a track in Reno whenever possible, lifting weights specific to core strength and “aqua jogging” in the Truckee Pool.

“I’ve been working pretty hard,” Mandy said, adding that she’s put in several 20-mile runs in training but none that were longer because she’s trying to improve her leg speed.

With next to no experience racing 26.2 miles, Mandy intends to keep her game plan simple.

“First and foremost, I want to run my own race,” she said. “I do look forward to the opportunity to run with a pack of girls who are really fast. I’d like to hang with the front pack as long as I can and let the energy of the pack work for me ” if they go out in a smart pace. But I won’t let my ego get in the way.

“And when I say lead pack, I mean lead pack minus Deena Kastor (of Mammoth Lakes) ” the pack that will drop off behind her. Deena Kastor is in a league of her own right now, so I exclude her.”

Mandy said she doesn’t expect to place in the top-3, which would earn her a spot on the U.S. Women’s Marathon Team headed to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. But you never know, she said.

“I do believe anything is possible. If I have a great day and some of the other girls don’t perform well, I think I have a chance,” Mandy said.

Mandy, who moved to Truckee with her husband Gary in June, placed first among women and 16th overall (35:37) in the Squaw Mountain Run this past summer, and was the first woman ” sixth overall (4:46) ” to finish the Firecracker Mile in Truckee on the Fourth of July.

She also won the Nike Half Marathon in San Francisco at the end of September, and took first in the XTERRA USA Championship 10K trail run in Incline Village the same month.

Running competitively since the age of 20, Mandy joined the U.S. National Triathlon Team while attending University of Colorado. Due to injuries and chronic fatigue from overtraining, she got out of professional triathlon racing in 2003, after which she and Gary moved to Hong Kong because of Gary’s job as a commercial pilot. (Gary also raced professionally as a triathlete.)

In Asia, Mandy dominated the racing scene, placing second only once in four years while winning every other race she entered ” mostly shorter-distance events. She said she still holds the 15K record in Hong Kong.

Mandy also raced half-marathons during a three-month stint living in South Africa.

After moving to Truckee, Mandy started teaching yoga for infants and children. She also teaches an infant massage class and is the head coach of Girls on the Run ” a self-esteem and healthy lifestyle program for girls ages 8-11.

For more information about Mandy, her programs and her future goals, visit http://www.giamandy.com.

What: Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials

Where: Boston

When: Sunday (day before the Boston Marathon)

Course: The Trials will not be run on the traditional Boston Marathon course; it will be a loop course covering Cambridge and Boston with the traditional Boylston Street finish.

To qualify: Complete a USATF-sanctioned marathon in 2:47:00 or faster

Mandy’s Houston Marathon time: 2:43:50

Standards: 2:39:00 or faster is “A” standard, 2:39:01-2:47:00 is a “B” standard. “A” standard runners are given complimentary accommodations.

Qualifying window: Jan. 1, 2006-March 23, 2008

Women qualified: 181 (not all have registered)

Who qualifies for the U.S. Women’s Marathon Team: The first three women across finish line.