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TRL’s Amanda Rice Wins Shamrock 15K

After winning the 2010 TRL women’s Summer Series with the first-ever perfect 500 score (five races, five wins), what’s a Lizard to do?

Amanda Rice (front mid-right of photo) takes a moment to pose for a TRL team photo before her 15k victory in the 2011 Shamrock Run.

In Amanda Rice’s case, it’s simple: qualify for the Olympic Trials, then win Shamrock.

It’s the first time in history a TRL member has picked off the Portland spring’s biggest prize: the Shamrock 15K. And she did it in commanding style, leading wire-to-wire, en route to a seemingly effortless 56:04.

Amanda isn’t a woman who’s been doing this since childhood. Even though she went to Willamette University, where she numbered Olympian Nick Symmonds among her friends, she never ran in college. Nor in high school. Rather, she spent 16 years training in ballet, while also collecting a degree in biochemistry.

It was only during a gap year between college and graduate school that she decided to give running a try.

Her first race was the 2006 Portland Marathon, where she cruised to a 3:23. For the next three-and-a-half years, she ran mostly marathons: another 3:23; 3:10; 3:11; 2:58; and 2:50:30 (Eugene, 2010).

By the time she ran Eugene, she was starting to attend Red Lizard track workouts. Afterward, working with TRL coach Rick Lovett, she dropped back to shorter distances, beginning with the Iris Run, her debut 5K, where she ran 17:49.

By the end of the summer she’d cut that to 17:05 at the BAC 5K on the Nike campus, as well as trying her hand on the track (4:52 for the 1500).

She then stepped back up to longer distances, culminating in a trip to Sacramento for the 2010 California International Marathon. There, she clipped another six-plus minutes off her marathon PR to qualify for the Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:44:12.

But those are just numbers. Anyone who’s met Amanda knows her to be the embodiment of all we love about running. “There is a sense of freedom to it,” she says. “It allows me to recoup, to gather my thoughts.”

She also loves racing, which she finds a nice contrast to her graduate work at the OHSU School of Dentistry. “It’s very different,” she says. “Dentistry [particularly her specialty, dental surgery] is a lot of a joint effort. Running is solo.”

Growing without inhibition

Not that Amanda is a loner. “I love the team,” she says. “I really enjoy the way people support each other and make running fun. It allows you to grow without inhibition.”

After her Trials-qualifying marathon, Amanda capitalized on a 70-mile-per-week base to run a PR 1:17:55 half-marathon (Vancouver Lake, 2011). Then, again, she and Rick cut her racing back to the short stuff.

In her first indoor track meet, she ran 4:44 in a hotly contested 1500 at the University of Portland’s Chiles Center. An hour later, she followed it with her first-ever go at the 800, scoring 2:26. A few weeks after that she ventured to the University of Washington’s Dempsey indoor facility, where she ran her debut 3000 in 9:54.99.

If there’s a common theme here, it’s debut.

“Everything’s a debut at this point,” she laughs. “Which is kind of nice. You can’t help but PR.”

Adds Lovett: “I’ve never met a runner who’s so instantly good at everything she tries. She’s easily scored national-class times on first attempt, at all distances she’s tried, from 1500 up. And she only missed doing the same at 800 because it was the second half of a double. Everyone who encounters her is astounded by her range. Most marathoners just aren’t that good at the short stuff.”

“I love the 1500,” Amanda says. “It might be my favorite distance.”

Running the “short stuff” was part of a program geared to lead her back up the distance ladder, with Shamrock always a major target.

“I wouldn’t have been able to run this race without the speed workouts on the track [and the shorter races],” she says. “A lot of people who do long-distance races don’t take it into consideration that short, fast speed workouts really help. I think the 5K races, the 1500, even the 800, will eventually get me a time I’m going to be very impressed with when it comes to the next marathon.”

In addition to being fast, she’s also been practicing race strategy and tactics.

“I remembered not to charge the hills,” she says of her Shamrock win, recalling pre-race coaching sessions. “And I’ve been concentrating on my breathing because that has been a limiting factor at any distance.”

In the race she used the state of her quads to monitor her progress. “That made me more conscious of keeping it easy going uphill,” she says. “Then, when it came to the crest and coming downhill, I charged. You allow your weight, I found, to just carry you. If you have the legs to carry you, you can really maximize the downgrade.”

Her race plan had always been built around the Barbur downgrade. “My shining moments, I knew before and during the race, would be the last 5K. I pictured myself on the track. With that image in mind, I slowly took a 6 minute-mile pace to 5:30. A [male] friend used my strategy and was impressed with how well it worked for him, as well. It’s something very universal.”

Lovett smiles. “She’ll be a coach herself someday,” he says.

What’s next? One more marathon before the Trials, most likely Grandma’s, where she’s an invited elite. “Every aspect of my training, since the very beginning, has been getting a good marathon time,” she says.

But she adds, “through this journey, I’ve learned that I enjoy the short distance races and will probably continue to do them because not only are they fun, but necessary.”

Fun, in fact, remains the key.

It helps that everything is new.

“At some point I’m going to hit a wall where I plateau and will have to find out the motivating factor. Right now, it’s discovery – to see what I’ve got. It’s like taking a trip where you have no destination and all of a sudden it takes you to interesting places. I’ve enjoyed being mentored, going to races, and seeing what I can accomplish with what little experience and knowledge I have.”

But she won’t be winning this year’s summer series. In addition to being on the verge of graduation, she’s in the Navy. After Grandma’s she’ll be off to Bethesda Naval Hospital for a yearlong residency in dental pathology.

But her roots are in Portland, so when schedule and leave time permit, expect to see her back here occasionally.

And if she just happens to time that around a race . . .?

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