SAN ANTONIO—The Kara Goucher of old was on display on Sunday.
“Old” and Kara Goucher's name get tied a lot nowadays as the 37-year-old looks to make her third Olympic team at February's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles.
"The internet keeps reminding me that I'm old,” Goucher joked after crossing the finish line in one hour, 11 minutes and 10 seconds for the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Half-Marathon victory. “I look at Deena Kastor and I don't think she's old.”
Even Goucher's own son, Colt, has his doubts about his mother's capability as he believed that fellow Olympian and former training partner Shalane Flanagan would be the one to win Sunday's race.
Flanagan and Amy Cragg (née Hastings) cruised to a 72:43 finish for third and fourth place respectively behind Canada's Sasha Gollish. For Flanagan and Cragg, the race served as a tempo run to assess where their fitness is at before beginning hard marathon training.
With about 10 weeks to go, Flanagan is about to start her hard build-up in training, coach Jerry Schumacher shared. Like many elite runners, Flanagan, Cragg and Goucher bypassed on running a fall marathon like New York City or Berlin, in order to have proper recovery and training time for a top three finish at the trials, which would send them to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Flanagan and 2012 Olympic marathoner Desiree Linden are arguably considered favorites to make the Olympic team. The third spot, which Goucher claimed at the last trials, may be up for grabs. Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor ran 2:27:47 at the age of 42 in October's Chicago Marathon. Cragg ran 2:27:03 at the 2014 Chicago Marathon, which makes her the third fastest American woman in the last two years.
Goucher last contested the 26.2 mile distance as she ran 2:37:03 in cold and windy conditions at the 2014 New York City Marathon.
While Sunday's race served as a workout to others, Goucher's goal was to win or run under 71 minutes. She came close to accomplishing both as she ran her fastest half-marathon time since June 2012.
"I'm not very comfortable leading and I actually like to sit behind people,” Goucher said. “It was a really good exercise for me having to look at my watch since I like to zone out. I was a little disappointed not to close harder but I haven't really been ahead in a race like that since college. It was like a learning experience."
Her husband Adam Goucher, a U.S. Olympian in 2000, popped up alongside the course seven times to encourage his wife. Afterwards, he believed that she ran well for a solo time trial and she definitely could have run much faster if she had competition.
The Gouchers are coming off a year in which they were whistle-blowers in a joint BBC and ProPublica report that alleged Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar pushed the boundaries on doping rules to gain a competitive advantage by encouraging the use of prescription medication and therapeutic use exemptions. Salazar remains under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Kara Goucher's focus has shifted to making her third U.S. Olympic team and remaining healthy through the winter in Boulder, Colo. Goucher underwent knee surgery in February but is now in the longest stretch of healthy running since before giving birth to Colt.
“My plan is to stay healthy, train a little harder and disappear,” Goucher says. “I don't really have any other races on the calendar. The more weeks I get of uninterrupted training, the more likely it is that I'll be a factor on Feb. 13. One of the silver linings from injuries is that I believe that now I'm the strongest I've been in a while.”