U.S Olympic trials marathon contender: Shalane Flanagan

After struggling with altitude adjustment in Boston in 2015, Shalane Flanagan has a new plan for the Olympic marathon trials. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Shalane Flanagan will contend for a spot on the U.S. Olympic marathon team on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. Here are some fast facts about her.

Marathon PR: 2:21:14 (Berlin, 2014)

Best trials qualifier: 2:21:14 (Berlin, 2014)

Most recent marathon: ninth place, 2:27:47, Boston, 4/20/15

Residence: Portland, Oregon

Age on race day: 34

Previous Olympic trials results: 2004: third in the 5,000 meters and sixth in the 1500 meters; 2008: third in the 5,000 meters and first in the 10,000 meters; 2012: first in the marathon and third in the 10,000 meters.

Trials outlook: Flanagan is the fastest qualifier by nearly three minutes, and she is the marathon trials defending champion. If she makes it -- barring catastrophe, there’s no reason she shouldn't -- it will be her fourth Olympics, and Flanagan has hinted that at age 34, this could be her last, so she’ll leave nothing to chance in her quest to finish in the top three in Los Angeles.

After a disappointing performance at the 2015 Boston Marathon, Flanagan and her coach, Jerry Schumacher, decided to revert back to the training schedule she followed in 2014, which led to a 2:22:02 in Boston and her PR of 2:21:14 in Berlin. It’s a simple approach, with one workout per week of shorter, faster intervals and a long run that includes marathon and 10K-effort pace work.

Flanagan will schedule her departure from high altitude -- she has been training in Flagstaff, Arizona -- for optimal adjustment to sea level. In 2015, she arrived in Boston several days before the race and felt flat. This time, Flanagan plans to arrive at sea level with two days to spare.

“There’s a weird period where you might not feel so good, but if I come down within 48 hours [of the race], I feel great,” she said. “[Boston 2015] was not a good indicator of my training. I was in an altitude funk period, and I raced on it, and it was a big mistake on our part.”

The buildup to these trials got off to a suboptimal start when Flanagan discovered a stress reaction in her foot that forced cross-training and physical therapy for a couple weeks. She also had back and Achilles pain early in the training cycle. With all that now behind her, she is confident that in 10 weeks of training, she has put in the mileage and work to be successful.

“It kind of makes it even more exciting if you can get it done under those kinds of circumstances,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan trained with Amy Cragg, her new Bowerman Track Club teammate, who placed fourth at the 2012 marathon trials and competed at the London Games in the 10,000 meters. The duo will be a force Feb. 13, and without a doubt, their competitors will be watching their collaboration carefully, along with the moves of Desiree Linden, who is the second-fastest qualifier with a 2:23:54. In fact, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Linden, Flanagan and Cragg make up the 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon team.

“[Amy and I] don’t care if we’re first, second or third. We just want to be on the team,” Flanagan said. “We don’t know yet, but we’re in a good enough place that if Amy and I felt like it was in our best interest to work together in the race -- like if it is time to make a move at some point -- I feel like we feel confident in our abilities to do that.”

Fun fact: Cragg and Flanagan have a mutual love of animals. Each considers her pets to be more like her children at this point.

“We are obsessed with our pets, for sure,” said Flanagan, who dressed her cat, Shubie, in a pumpkin sweater for Halloween.

She and her coach also like to watch birds while running.

“We are always looking for birds,” she said. “When you’re outside a lot, it’s actually a really cool thing.”