The transition from collegiate to post-collegiate competition can be a difficult process for many runners. But don't tell that to Gretchen Lohr-Cruz of Glendale, who appears to be handling the adjustment just fine.
Lohr-Cruz, who used up her collegiate eligibility at Cal State Los Angeles last June, placed fourth in the women's division of the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday, making her the first woman finisher from the United States.
Her time of 2 hours, 41 minutes, 41 seconds (an average of 6:10 a mile) was a personal best by more than nine minutes and stamped Lohr-Cruz as a woman to watch in U. S. marathoning in the future.
Lohr-Cruz's time was even more impressive because it came under less-than-ideal weather conditions for a marathon--temperatures in the mid-70s and clear, sunny skies.
"I thought she could run 2:42 if it wasn't hot," said Greg Ryan, her coach for the past three years. "But I was very surprised that she ran as fast as she did considering the heat.
"She's never handled the heat well in the past."
This time, Lohr-Cruz, 27, dealt successfully with the weather by not thinking about it, concentrating instead on the race at hand.
"The heat really worried me about a week ago," Lohr-Cruz said. "But once the race got closer, I had to concentrate on running my own race. I didn't have time to worry about the weather."
Once the race started, she had more important things to worry about, like the other women in the field. In ninth place at 10 miles (60:07), Lohr-Cruz began to pass runners at the 12-mile mark, moving into seventh at 13 miles, fifth at 18 and fourth at 21.
"I knew then that I'd be OK," said Lohr-Cruz, who ran 2:51:17 in her marathon debut in Columbus, Ohio, last November. "I just concentrated on maintaining my form and holding my pace."
Though she did slow in the last five miles, Lohr-Cruz did not fall apart like she did in Columbus where she was forced to walk several times in the last five miles and her last mile took a nightmarish 9:15.
"I did not want to go through that again," Lohr-Cruz said with a laugh. "That was terrible."
Since Columbus, however, Ryan has increased Lohr-Cruz's weekly training regimen to 70-75 miles--and it paid off Sunday.
"I felt very strong during the race," Lohr-Cruz said. "I think I could have run in the high 2:30s if the conditions had been better."
Ryan foresees even faster times for his protege in the future.
"I think she's capable of running 2:31 or so by 1992," he said, "which ought to put her in the thick of things in the Olympic Trials."