A quick redirection

Thanks to the good folks of Running Times Magazine, please check out my future blog updates here:

Pound & Hammer

JDE

나는 더운 날씨가 좋아요: A Daegu Travelogue

Jeffrey writes from Daegu, South Korea in anticipation of Sunday’s World Championship Marathon.

Greetings from Daegu! After a busy summer of readying myself for this opportunity to represent the USA, I am only a few days away from the Marathon– I’m ready and very excited to compete! I have been in South Korea now for 8 days, and feel well-adjusted to the time change and climate. As I get ready for Sunday, here’s an abridged version of my experience in Daegu and a preview of what’s to come.


Life in Daegu

Since my arrival on August 25th, I have been staying in the Athlete Village complex. The enclosed campus consists of 9 high-rise apartment buildings, practice facilities (including a track and throwing areas), a shopping plaza and central dining hall. The Village conveniently backs up to the Geumhogang River, and we have been using the paved bike trail for our training runs. The new living quarters have been relatively comfortable, thanks in part to the air conditioning units. I am sharing an apartment-style suite with with the other U.S. marathoners– Nick Arciniaga, Mike Morgan, Sergio Reyes and Mike Sayenko— along with Americans Bernard Lagat (5,000M) and Trevor Barron (20K Racewalk). For the past week and a half, we have all gotten into our race week routines, mainly resting more with lighter training and workouts.

As anticipated, it has been hot and humid here. Even by 9:00 AM, the temperature is above 80 degrees and the high humidity and direct sunlight definitely make it feel warmer. While not the most comfortable conditions for training or racing, I feel well-adapted to the climate now and after training in extra layers this summer. I’ve explored outside the Village a little with the other marathoners, but because of the heat I haven’t spent too much time sightseeing or spectating races at the Stadium (we’ve been watching the Korean broadcast from our apartment).

The biggest difficulty for me thus far has been finding food. The Village dining hall, which the LOC assured could accommodate athletes with special dietary needs or restrictions, has been a total letdown. The buffet style set-up has had very little variation between daily meals and many of the courses are unidentifiable (although I did identify french fries, lima beans and leftover mac & cheese in Mike Morgan’s “Lasagna”). Vegans and vegetarians virtually have no options, as every dish has meat or seafood. Outside of the cafeteria, I have gone out for meals and have a slightly better experience, as it has been difficult to communicate my diet. I’ve settled for eating salads, veggies and rice. Thankfully, I packed some Raw Revolution Bars, trail mix and some Trader Joe’s Almond Butter.


The Team

We have a strong core group lining up for Sunday’s Marathon. As Nick‘s blog points out, all our athletes have run between 2:11:30 and 2:14:55 in the past 11 months. This bodes well for the World Cup Team Competition. Nick and Mike M. were also housemates of mine when we were training together in Michigan. Both of them are highly-experienced marathoners. Nick Arciniaga, 28, has steadily progressed in his 5 years of marathoning, setting his personal best of 2:11:30 in Houston this past January. Mike Morgan, 31, ran his PR of 2:14:55 at Chicago last year, and competed in a very hot and humid 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan. Additionally, Sergio Reyes and Mike Sayenko should bolster our squad for the World Cup Competition. Sergio, 29, proved himself to be the better marathoner last fall at Twin Cities by winning the U.S. Championship in 2:14:02. Sayenko, 27, finished 10th overall and 2nd American in 2:14:38 at Chicago last year.


Competition, Course and Conditions

The field includes some very strong contenders, as the IAAF Preview discusses here. Given that it’s a championship marathon, there are more variables than predictability in how the race will play out.

The Marathon course consists of two 15K loops and one 12.195K loop around downtown Daegu, both starting and finishing at the historic Gukchae-bosang Memorial Park. After previewing the course as a team and watching the Women’s Marathon last Saturday, it seems the lack of shade presents the biggest challenge. The roads are well-surfaced and relatively flat for what I am used to running on.

The weather remains to be the key variable on Sunday. With an average high of 86 degrees and 79% humidity for this time of year, Daegu proves to offer less than ideal conditions for marathoning. With a 9:00 AM Start, the daytime temperature will rapidly increase over the 2+ hours we are out running. Similar conditions in Osaka severely slowed down the Men’s Marathon in 2007.

To help cope with the heat, aside from me having regularly trained in sweats all summer, our team will be warming up before the race in cooling vests. These lightweight ice vests will help keep our core temperature down before the race begins. During the marathon we have fluid stations accessible every 5K of the race, with additional sponge and mist stations. Keeping hydrated early on will be extremely important, and I will have 6 bottles of Vita Coco Coconut Water out on the course.

Based on the most recent weather forecast, it appears to be cooling off:


Final Thoughts

There’s no better finale to the World Championships than the Marathon. I’m ready for Sunday and all the challenges it will present. It’s definitely an honor to put on a USA uniform and be an ambassador for my country in competition, although I’m also excited for what our team has the potential of accomplishing. Go USA!

As always, thanks to my family, friends and sponsors for all their support. I’ll look forward to sharing my memorable race with you! –JDE

I run because…

Jeffrey’s update from home in Rochester, NY on National Running Day.

Greetings from Rochester, NY and Happy National Running Day! It definitely feels like June here in the Northeast– I’m still adjusting to the high humidity levels (albeit uncomfortable, it is good preparation for Daegu). After a weekend in Ottawa, where I paced 30K of the Marathon, I’m home visiting with family. It’s a nice abbreviated vacation from the Southwest– and a stark contrast to my last visit with Ali back in December for Christmas!

I am also excited to be visiting Rochester because this evening I have the opportunity to share my passion and experiences in the sport with my hometown running community. At 7:00PM tonight I will be speaking at Medved Running and Walking Outfitters on a variety of running-related topics, including: post-collegiate development, preparing for the marathon, altitude training and nutrition. Last year, I had the chance to meet Dan Medved at his longtime store-sponsored Medved Lilac 10K, and I’m very grateful to him for inviting me to visit with the running community in his store. Tonight’s event will be a great opportunity to discuss some of the many lessons that I have learned in the sport; I am also hoping it will be a way to express my gratitude to the supportive community that I grew up in!

Given that it is National Running Day, I think this is an appropriate time to reflect on the sport and its profound impact on our health and quality of living. I like the provocative question that we, as runners, are challenged to personally answer today: Why do you run? 

For me, in addition to having competitive aspirations, running has given me such a great model for personal development and growth. I enjoy the balance it provides me with, and it has been a great outlet for my energy. I enjoy being fit and active while participating in an activity that I hope to continue with my entire life. I also feel quite fortunate in the present to be able to pursue my passion as a careerpath. To quote MarathonGuide.com‘s philosophy: I Live2Run!

In this current running meditation, I also recall Coach Jack‘s adage that he offers his athletes: “The road traveled is certainly as important as is the destination because every day along the way is part of a person’s never-ending education.” And so I lace up my Brooks shoes each day and head out on a new road anxious to see where it might lead– enjoying the journey as opposed to thinking solely of the destination. To be more succinct:

Well thanks for reading; it’s time for me to head out for a run! –JDE

Opportunity

Jeffrey discusses how opportunity is fundamental in American Distance Running, and showcases the May 15th’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon as an exciting opportunity for Olympic Marathon Trials hopefuls.

In my own experience, I’ve felt that one of the most fundamental components required to become successful as a post-collegiate runner is opportunity. While there certainly are other attributes that create a successful athlete (recalling Coach Jack DanielsRunning Formula, where he identifies opportunity as one of four “ingredients for success”– the others being ability, motivation and direction), I feel that having the right opportunities is essential in order to achieve to our full potential. In distance running, I believe opportunity can take form in 3 ways: as an environment conducive for focusing on training, through the support of generous sponsors and the community, and by having the chance to compete and demonstrate our ability.

In this pre-Olympic year, there have been a myriad of continuing and new opportunities created to assist U.S. Distance Runners and Olympic hopefuls. I have already described how profoundly the RRCA Roads Scholar Grant has impacted my own career and perspective in 2010, and I’m confident future program recipients will be equally as grateful. In February, Running USA awarded its second annual Allen Steinfeld Development Award– a nod to one of the pioneers in our sport who helped establish the Team USA Distance Running program in his tenure as head of the New York Road Runners. With such generous grants made available to individuals and groups, there’s no reason for us not to become successful.

Additionally, race organizations are making the same push to provide opportunities for Olympic hopefuls. Steve Nearman, director of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half-Marathon, is offering a $1000 cash bonus to any American achieving an Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier at his race in October, while also allocating $1.00 per each race entry to fund a U.S. elite training program. Similarly, Steve Taggart of Tagg Running Events in Tucson, AZ is also pledging $1.00 from existing race entries to help fund U.S. Distance Running projects. And these are just a few examples of the many opportunities we have as American distance runners!

 

The Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon


There’s one opportunity for Olympic Marathon Trials hopefuls that I want to feature, and which I am very excited to be involved with: the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. On May 15, 2011, American Men and Women will have the opportunity to chase the Olympic Trials Standards, while competing for cash incentives and prizes. I will be leading the men’s contingent as a pacer through 18 miles, running the required 2:19:00 pace to help punch more tickets for Houston 2012.

As advertised in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon Press Release, participants in the Olympic Trials Incentive Program will have pacers for the respective Trials Standards (2:19:00 for men, 2:39:00 for women), access to special fluid stations, a VIP dinner on Friday night and a Pasta dinner on Saturday night. In addition to being eligible for the overall race prize purse, the top 3 American Trials Qualifiers are awarded as follows:

*1st Place: $1500 cash, $500 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate and $250 GNC gift certificate
*2nd Place: $1000 cash, $500 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate and $250 GNC gift certificate
*3rd Place: $1000 cash, $500 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate and $250 GNC gift certificate

Also, all runners posting their first ‘A’ Olympic Trials Qualifying Time will receive travel and hotel reimbursement.

Athletes and coaches interested in the Olympic Trials Incentive Program should contact Athlete Coordinator Kelsey Jackson for more information at 412-586-7785.

I’m very impressed with this proactive effort by Race Director Patrice Matamoros and Kelsey Jackson to support American distance running and encourage marathoning talent to develop. The Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon is doing an invaluable service to building our sport by providing this opportunity. Having benefitted from similar racing opportunities in my career, I am equally enthused to help contribute to this effort and assist athletes in achieving their Olympic Trials Qualifiers. May 15th is going to be a great day for our sport!

A New Year & The Naples 1/2 Marathon

Entering 2011 with a purpose, Jeffrey opens his racing season with a strong showing at the Naples Daily News Half-Marathon.

Entering 2011, I am feeling nostalgic to certain degree as I look back a year ago to my memorable first marathon experience at the P.F. Chang’s Rock’n’Roll Arizona Marathon. I remember how well everything came together in my training over the holidays and culminated with my running as hard as I could through the Phoenix street grid in the presence of my family and friends. Truly an experience unlike any other, my first marathon was a profound rite of passage and I felt extremely fortunate to be able to share my successful debut with those who faithfully supported me.

Without a marathon in my January racing plans, I used this past Christmas holiday to visit my family in Rochester with Ali. Upon returning,  I again welcomed in the New Year in Flagstaff tradition at the Pine Cone Drop. I was in good company as we anxiously watched the illuminated pine cone descend from atop the Weatherford Hotel in gelid sub-zero temperatures. Teeth chattering and with my breath a visible plume of smoke in the midnight air, I felt poised for the New Year, and ready for the challenges that 2011 will promise.

While I try to avoid making any capricious New Year’s Resolutions, I have formulated a personal resolve for 2011: to make sure every endeavor I undertake has a purpose. Recalling this wisdom that was imparted on me several years ago by my UVA Assistant Cross-Country Coach, Brad Hunt, this advice resonates to challenge me in the next year to be aware of my decisions and actions, both personally and athletically. As I will have many great experiences and opportunities in the coming year, I feel I should strive to remain mindful in everything I do.

 

The Naples Daily News Half-Marathon

After a 3 month sabbatical from racing, I was anxious to get back into competing in 2011. I weighed my January opening race options very carefully, enjoying both the responsibility and liberty of being self-managed. As much as I would have liked to return to P.F. Chang’s for the Half-Marathon, I felt I would benefit more from a change in racing venue this year. During my research, an exciting race opportunity presented itself in the Naples Daily News Half-Marathon.

Recognized by Runner’s World as one of the 25 Best Half-Marathons, the NDN Half first began in 1989 and now is in its 23rd year running in this scenic Gulf Coast city. The event is organized by Naples’ tight-knit running community, the Gulf Coast Runners, and proceeds benefit their Youth Development Fund Program. While the notion of racing on Florida’s “Paradise Coast” (and subsequently escaping the chill of high country living) was appealing, I felt that running in the Floridian subtropics would also help me prepare for the conditions I will likely face when running in Daegu in September.

My travel day to Naples was quite long. I woke up Friday at 3AM for an easy training run before driving down to Phoenix for my morning flight. Luckily, I had a full thermos of coffee and the new David Sedaris audiobook playing to keep me awake for the drive. When traveling to the east coast, I find waking up and running at an unpleasantly early hour will better prepare me for the time change ahead. I can then spend the rest of the day getting to my destination– hoping there aren’t any air travel delays– and not worrying about running once I get to the race city. Friday’s travel proved to be uneventful, and I was able to get some rest on my flights and brought some fruit and a Raw Revolution Food Bar to snack on. I arrived in Naples at sunset and was taken aback by its serene quality. After a light meal and a glass of wine with my benevolent hosts, Jim and Faye, I was more than ready to call it a night.

I had a very relaxing day before the race. I went for an easy morning run on a popular running and biking loop between the Gulf of Mexico and four miniature bays. My legs felt good after Friday’s travel, and the sunny 50-degree morning was much more inviting running weather than the January mornings had been in Flagstaff. I spent much of the morning and afternoon resting and taking in the panorama of the Gulf from my hosts’ twelfth story condo balcony. After lunch, Jim gave me a tour of the race course, and while I was impressed with the pancake-flat profile, I was even more impressed by the stretch of multi-million dollar homes that lined Gordon Drive. I always find it beneficial to preview a race course to help me prepare for and visualize my run; it also gives me an opportunity to appreciate some of the things I might not notice while in race mode. That evening I made an early dinner at the condo, loading up on quinoa pasta with a Boca meatless sauce and sautéed spinach. After a glass of Cab, I was again ready to wind down and get some rest.

It was comforting to go through my pre-race routine. I felt calm as I stretched with my rope while listening to my ipod, and my legs felt very responsive during my 3 mile warm-up run. To prepare for the morning sun, I rubbed on some Jack Black (not the actor) Sun Guard and had my Smith Sunglasses resting on my head. As we lined up for the start, I ran into Ethiopian power couple Ezkyas Sisay and Belainesh Gebre. It was a great surprise to see my hometown friends here, although I knew Ezkyas would be among the contenders if he had any competitive ambitions for himself this morning. I secured my spot at the front of the starting line next to a few other familiar competitors as the national anthem played. I paused for a short moment, reminded of my resolve to be here and run with a purpose. Then we were sent off.

My marathoner’s patience took over in the first few miles; I hung back and watched the front of the race sort itself out with athletes surging and maneuvering haphazardly around each other. Recognizing I had 13 miles to solve my problems and establish my position, I trusted my intuition and ran alongside Luke Humphrey and Andrew Leatherby, two strong marathon and road running veterans. Before 4 miles, we turned into a circular driveway that rounded and redirected us to head back on Gordon Drive. I was slightly unnerved by the fact that the lead group was turning Northbound onto Gordon as I entered the driveway. This select pack featured some very capable athletes, including 1:01 half-marathoner Macdonald Ondara, Ezkyas, Worku Beyi, defending champion Simon Sawe and the 2009 champion Nicholas Kurgat (unbeknownst to me at the time, but representing MarathonGuide.com). After turning around, I began to assert myself in an effort to reel in the leaders.

I worked with Luke and Andrew to pull in a few select athletes that were running between us and the front of the race. We rolled up on Christian Hesch and were approaching Zach Hine of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. I think between 5 miles and 10K, I had pulled clear of my group and was committed to running 4:50 miles and moving up. I estimated I was in about 7th position, and knew I had two U.S. athletes (Simon and Zach) ahead of me. As I continued to gain on the leaders, Zach had successfully worked his way across the gap to join the Ezkyas and company. I could tell when we turned around at a cul-de-sac after 7 miles that I would really have to work to catch this group, as they seemed to be working together. Once I got onto Galleon Drive, as the road narrowed under the shady canopy of Banyan trees, I caught up to a laboring Simon Sawe and urged him to work with me. When I made the 180 degree turn-around before mile 9, I saw he had drifted back. On to the next one…

Before the 10 mile mark, where a local priest offered his blessings with reinvigorating splashes of Holy Water, I saw Desiree Davila of Hansons closely stalking Belainesh. It was great to see her mixing it up against one of the world’s best (and her growing success in the marathon is particularly inspiring for other developing U.S. distance runners). I passed 10 miles around 48:30, without taking any water cups that were offered. I knew I couldn’t afford any lapses in concentration if I wanted to catch the runners ahead. Shortly after, I passed by Derese Deniboba, an Ethiopian representing the Westchester Track Club, and I was focused on the 4 remaining targets ahead.

I continued to make ground on the East African contingent and Hansons’ gutsy mesomorph (now a few strides trailing the trio) as we returned to Gordon Drive and ran into the light coastal breeze. I had to make several conscious efforts to keep pushing and get out of my comfort zone, with the incentive of their figures growing closer. I kept digging in the final mile, as we returned into downtown Naples and finished on 8th Street. I was unable to bridge the distance to these four, but pushed all the way home to the finish line in 1:04:19.5. I waved graciously to the supportive Naples crowd as I finished, happy with my first race performance of 2011.

After switching out of my racing gear, I laced up my Brooks Launch and headed out for a 60 minute run on Gulf Shore Boulevard. A true marathoner at heart, I had to get my 25 miles in for the day!

I really want to thank the Gulf Coast Runners, all the enthusiastic volunteers, Perry, George and my hosts Jim and Faye for their hard work and race weekend hospitality. The Naples Daily News Half is such a well-organized event, and it showcases a picturesque city and an active community. I certainly will put this race on my schedule for a future year!

And so 2011 is off to a good start; I am excited for my next racing opportunities and will continue to run with a purpose.

–JDE

P.S. Congratulations to 2:13:51 marathoner Josh Cox on amending his 50K American Record, which I learned he accomplished at P.F. Chang’s in Phoenix over the weekend. Josh, if you plan to make a future attempt at the World Record, I hope you will share your racing plans with other U.S. marathoners ahead of time–myself included, as I would be happy to give you some competition.

The Roads Scholar Diaries

Jeffrey reflects on his eventful year of racing in 2010 and the profound impact of becoming an RRCA Roads Scholar.

In addition to the generous support of MarathonGuide.com and Brooks, The Road Runners Club of America helped play an integral role in my progress and athletic success in 2010. As one of this year’s Road Scholar Grant recipients, I was fortunate enough to receive financial assistance to use towards my development as a post-collegiate runner. As the year winds down, grant recipients are asked to write about their running careers since the time we applied in May. In these past 7 months, with the help of the Roads Scholar Grant, I have undergone a total metamorphosis as a runner. As I reflect back on my many racing adventures from 2010, I appreciate the role the RRCA played in my transition from an overzealous road racer– more casually referred to as a “road whore”– to a focused professional marathoner.

I remember having mixed emotions back in May, only days after I had anxiously submitted my Roads Scholar application. The excitement from my debut marathon in January had dissipated, and nagging injury problems during February had quelled my hopes of immediately building on January’s success. It came as a grave disappointment to indefinitely postpone all my racing plans, and I did not know how long my recovery would be. Weeks went by and I would continually test out my legs only to discover marginal improvements that were quickly reversed (in hindsight, I should have rested my body more from running while I was hurt). It was not until after Easter that I was finally able to run pain-free again each day, which came as a big relief. Finally healthy, I hastily resolved to jump back into racing as soon as I could, feeling an exigency to make up for all the racing opportunities that I had missed in early Spring.

So two weeks after formally resuming training, I traveled to Spokane for the Bloomsday Run. As a competition that is included annually in the Professional Road Running Organization (PRRO) Circuit, the Bloomsday 12K attracts a world-class international field each year. For me, it was pretty high-profile race to start a comeback with, however the very kind and hospitable race organization had me enthused to return to Spokane for a second year in a row. As I lined up for the race start downtown on Riverside Avenue, I saw the all the waves of runners lining up behind us and my pre-race jitters had once again returned. I thought to myself, it has been too long! Even with the electric feel of racing again, I ran a very conservative first half and moved my way up to finish 16th place overall and 4th American with a time of 36:44. It was an encouraging result, and my first time running under 5:00 mile pace in over 3 months. Going into the race, my fitness level had been a complete mystery to me, and thus I had soared over the low standard that I had set for myself. I was so enthralled with the result that I ran 10 more miles cool-down after the race to get in some “bonus” training.

Regardless of my Bloomsday result, I had planned to follow up with another race 2 weeks later– in San Francisco at the ING Bay to Breakers 12K. While also known for recruiting a very competitive international field, the Bay to Breakers is more widely renowned for its unique and festive race atmosphere. As excited as I was with this next racing opportunity, I also jumped at the chance to visit my sister and her husband, who live in the Bay. It was a quick weekend and I hardly spent any time with my feet up. The day before the race, I ran a brisk 12 miles around Crissy Field, went out to lunch with Beth and Matt for a delectable raw vegan meal at Café Gratitude and then spent a few hours strolling through the hippie shops in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The next morning I rolled up and down the streets of San Francisco and into Golden Gate Park to finish 11th overall (and 3rd American) in 36:51. I felt it was another encouraging result, given that I was running into a headwind while being pelted with flying tortillas and nearly tripping in the first hundred yards over a pantless man carrying a briefcase. My experience validated the fact that Bay to Breakers is a race like no other.

Seven days after shivering through 12 kilometers in a singlet and shorts in the windy Bay area, I was 3 time zones away, running clear of my competitors in a hot and humid Medved Lilac 10K. It was a last-minute decision to visit home and run this race.  In March, I had planned a trip back to Rochester to defend my St. Patrick’s Day 5-mile title, although those aspirations were hampered by my ongoing ailments. As if returning to Rochester and winning upstate NY’s largest 10K wouldn’t be redeeming enough, the Lilac 10K was the only major race in my hometown that I hadn’t won (or competed in). With past champions like John Tuttle, Keith Brantley and Chris Fox, I was anxious to add a Lilac victory to my running résumé. Additionally, a great deal of pride and prize money were at stake. After a mile of inconspicuously observing the other athletes in our whittling lead pack, I pushed by the Ethiopian favorite and soloed home the final 5 miles. It was far from a graceful victory and I remember gritting it out for the final mile and a half, heading up a few rolling hills on the return into Highland Park and winning in a modest time of 30:09. Ten miles cool-down and an hour later, I was star-struck shaking hands with Dick Beardsley at the awards ceremony. Eight hours later, I was back in Flagstaff feeling over-exhausted and numb from travel.

By then, my racing appetite had grown insatiable. If I found a race with prize money and a means to get to the starting line, it was on my radar. In fact, I was committing to races without thinking about how I could train for them (the perfect example being the Mt. Washington Road Race). It probably would have been better for me not to include hard workouts between weekend races, and yet I was running mid-week workouts with the same intensity and volume as during my Phoenix marathon training.

The month of June tested my endurance as much with travel as it did with racing. In the first weekend I flew out to Des Moines, IA for a 20K. As we lined up en masse at the Saylorville Dam under torrential rains, I noticed this small-town road race with a generous prize purse was not the well-kept secret that I thought it would be. It took me 10 miles to catch enough race casualties to make my first trip to Iowa a relative success, as if earning prize money delineated success from failure. I didn’t think any more about my race, and blocked out the fact that it was my slowest 20K result on record.

The weekend after Iowa’s Distance Classic, I flew back east for 2 races on the New England running circuit: the Litchfield Hills and Mt. Washington Road Races. In the days before Litchfield while I was in Flagstaff, I ran a debilitating mile repeat workout on Snow Bowl Road that left me feeling largely under the weather by the time I arrived in the sticks of Connecticut. However, thanks to the friendly locals and other visiting athletes, I was distracted enough not to dwell on my lethargic state. The race proved to be a dogfight though, and I was part of a large front group as we entered the trail portion of the course. I pushed hard at the front while Julius Kiptoo, who I had met and raced at Bloomsday, patiently bided his time. I  remember relinquishing the lead as we passed a cemetery, and Julius pulled ahead with the ominous and steep hill on Gallow’s Lane just ahead. The effort up Gallow’s (a foreshadowing of my Mt. Washington experience) was extremely difficult and incredibly taxing, which resulted in my dropping 2 positions in the final mile.  It was neither a great result, nor an overly-disappointing run. However in the following days, my sore throat evolved into a deep congested cough and a headache. Against better logic, I jumped on a Greyhound Bus to Vermont to put the nail in my coffin…

The surprising news came days after I had arrived back in Flagstaff, still a little congested and completely disillusioned by my mountain running debacle. I received a call from Jean Knaack of the RRCA, and was pleasantly taken aback by her news of my selection as a Roads Scholar. When I had submitted my application for the Grant, I had doubted my legitimacy as a candidate, given how many post-collegiate athletes were healthy and running well on the roads. At the same time, I had remotely hoped that my marathon debut had not been totally eclipsed. It came much to my surprise that I was named one of the five finalists. To be recognized as a Roads Scholar was not only an honor, but it marked a turning point for me. I knew the Grant would provide me with the financial resources to focus on my training without getting caught up in chasing prize purses every weekend, as I had been doing. During June, I had committed to run in October’s U.S. Marathon Championship in Twin Cities. I recognized that the only way I was going to succeed at a U.S. Championship– and particularly in the marathon– would be if I directed my focus towards the preparation. This Grant would enable me to do that.

I finished up my racing in early July, returning to Iowa for a second place finish at the Fifth Season 8K, and ran on fumes a week later in my final race at the Utica Boilermaker. Just as it had been for 3 months, my race performances were consistent, but far from exceptional. I was in dire need of a break from racing, and just needed time to train and work on my craft as a marathoner.

The summer flew by, and I was responding quickly to the workouts Coach Jack had given me to prepare for Twin Cities (he used a training schedule he adapted from working with 2:23 marathoner Lisa Martin). While training progressed, I had started getting blood work done to monitor my hematological values. It was interesting to have this data as feedback, and develop a more scientific understanding of how my body was responding to my training. My blood work also confirmed that I was taking in and sustaining adequate levels of nutrients from my vegan diet (compelling data for me personally that disproved the common misconceptions about veganism).

As I have mentioned in past blog entries, I incorporated a few races into my marathon program to work on running hills (Snow Bowl Road and Jerome) and racing under tough conditions (Parkersburg). These select races really helped to keep my routine dynamic, and I appreciated the moderate exposure to competition while training remained as the primary focus. Both Snow Bowl and Jerome were nice confidence builders, where I was able to run away from my competitors and redeem myself as a climber. Parkersburg was in every sense a “rust-buster,” where I had to manage myself in difficult racing conditions against tough competitors, and simply experience the feeling of “grinding the gears.” After those races, I went into the Twin Cities Marathon as a stronger hill runner and felt more capable of handling increased levels of discomfort. I can conclude without any doubt that shifting my focus from racing to training during the Summer helped me make the podium at Twin Cities this Fall and qualify for next year’s World Championships.

Thanks to the RRCA Roads Scholar Program, I was able to make major strides towards the end of 2010 and in my second marathon. I felt that their supporting my continuing education as a marathoner has helped bring me closer to realizing my potential, particularly when I am focused and thinking of my running career in a more long-term context. As I enter 2011 I will be taking my new perspective with me, instilled with the belief that I can and will break through, as many tenacious Roads Scholars in the past have. But I will always look back on this year fondly and with gratitude, remembering how and where it began, and those who made it possible.

Again I am reminded that the journey is more important than the destination.

–JDE

An overdue update

Jeffrey writes an overdue update on life and running after October’s marathon.

Please excuse my two-month hiatus from updating my page. While dust has collected atop my blog on my Twin Cities Marathon recap, my return to training and the imminent winter holidays have kept me quite literally on the run.

After the U.S. Championships, I took two weeks of prescribed downtime. This consisted of a complete break from the running routine, although I kept my body and mind active during the entirety of my break. I spent the extra hours of my days getting outside to bike, hike and enjoy the mild October weather in Flagstaff. I also picked up some extra hours at the Public Library, and it was nice to maintain a level of productivity in my routine. I think all of these activities, combined with some good meals and a few visits with Dr. Kym accelerated my recovery from the marathon, and left me feeling rejuvenated and excited to start running again.

In my first run back, my initial strides felt awkward and running felt more foreign to me than ever before. However, by the end of my 30-minute shuffle down the Urban Trail, muscle memory had restored a level of fluidity to my form that reminded me of the 4900 miles I had already logged in this year. Even so, I wanted to be really careful and patient with my return to training. Last February, I was too aggressive in coming back after Phoenix and ended up missing more time because of nagging overuse injuries. So I resolved to be conservative with coming back this time around.

Right around Halloween, after a few weeks of  just getting out the door, I started integrating workouts into my schedule again. It’s incredible how a prolonged period of rest and recovery allows fitness to return and improve so rapidly. My training has also been increasingly enjoyable because I have been meeting with a few very talented athletes in Jared Scott and Chris Gomez for workouts and runs.

Jared is very strong aerobically, and he’s been a great athlete to do strength work with. A few weeks ago, we ran down and up the Grand Canyon, which was by far the toughest and most painful climb I’ve ever done! I’ve really taken a liking to climbing, and nobody in town seems to share my penchant for this masochistic style of running more than Jared. This past week, we ran up to the towers of Mt. Elden, and retching at 9200ft never felt so good.

Likewise, I have been learning a lot from working with another RunFlagstaffer, Chris Gomez. As a track specialist, he’s been very humbling to work with; his strength is my weakness. In a recent rep session, I was pulled along to multiple personal bests in 200m. I like the challenge of working on a weakness, and learning from a stronger (and faster) runner is the best way to improve.  And as a marathoner, I definitely think improving my efficiency will benefit me in the long run. Overall, I am excited have these opportunities to work with other athletes on both our strengths and weaknesses, as we all strive to become better runners.

Outside of training, I have been enjoying this time of year. For Thanksgiving, I traveled with Ali down to Tucson for a 4-day weekend. We had a delectable Thanksgiving dinner with her family, which was highlighted by sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, stuffing and a vegan gravy (I also helped make an apple crisp for dessert). If the company and food weren’t nice enough, I had the luck of seeing a pack of 20 wild javelinas romp through the backyard that evening.

For the rest of the weekend, Ali and I enjoyed being out and about in the 70-degree Tucson weather (while Flagstaff had its first snowfall). Our trip included shopping downtown, a scenic drive up Mt. Lemmon, an afternoon at La Encantada, a performance at the Live Theatre Workshop and a visit to Saguaro National Park. The holiday weekend was a nice break from our routines in Flagstaff, and I really enjoyed being in Tucson. I’ll definitely have to give that 8 mile loop around Saguaro National Park another run! Here are a few photos from the weekend:

As the Christmas and New Year’s holidays rapidly approach, I continue to reflect on how blessed I am and look forward to being able to celebrate these holidays with my family and friends. I am also excited for 2011 and all that the future holds.

Hope everyone is enjoying this time of year as much as I am. –JDE

Primed for 26

Here are my final musings before turning 26 and running 26.

The turning leaves and brisk mornings are not only indicative of Autumn’s arrival, but also of a few personal milestones that are rapidly approaching. Tomorrow I will turn 26, which is far less exciting than it sounds, but my birthday is a necessary waypost I must pass every Fall. Also on October 1st, I will be en route to the midwest as I get ready to run my second marathon on Sunday– at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. For me, neither turning 26 years old nor running 26 miles is anything to dread; my mind and body are well-prepared for this weekend and I plan to make each a quality 26.

Reflecting on my past year, I can say that the quarter-century mark has brought out the best of the Libra in me: my life is in a positive state of balance. As a result of my increased commitment to running (and with moving up to the marathon), I have worked to formulate a more healthy routine this year. From getting more rest to the adoption of a vegan diet, I have felt more energized and well at 25 than ever before. Additionally, my time living in Flagstaff has introduced me to so many positive and inspiring individuals: my housemates, my girlfriend, my coach, other dedicated athletes and my colleagues. Being around other motivated and congenial people in this mountain town has helped keep me in good spirits and made me feel like I am at home here. I am thankful to have such a dynamic, which keeps me focused and in a happy equilibrium. In turning 26, I will strive to continue in this healthy balance.

This weekend will also be my second marathon, at the US Championship in Minneapolis, MN. I’m excited with my level of fitness and preparedness for this 26.2 mile task. I have had a very focused Summer of training, thanks to Coach Jack’s expertise and workouts. Akin to my last marathon buildup, I have stayed healthy and been able to hone in on my ability to run harder at longer distances– although this time around I did not have any winter weather to contend with. After the progress I have made during this training phase, I feel wiser and more aerobically capable of running this event than I did in January. And so I travel to the Twin Cities this weekend feeling equipped with both the physical and mental aptitudes to take on the marathon, no longer a rookie.

As I hit the road for 26, I recall some great advice Coach Jack recently offered me:

“The road traveled is far more important than what you may achieve at the end of the journey. It’s the experiences along the way that you will remember, not your final destination.”

Thanks to everyone who has made this journey so worthwhile. I am primed for 26!

–JDE

The Jerome Hill Climb & Labor Day Weekend

I spent my Labor Day weekend running up and through the historic mining town of Jerome. Ali and I also had a few other adventures while exploring the Wild West!

Jerome, AZ sits snug on the Cleopatra Hillside about 60 miles to the southwest of Flagstaff. This historic “Wild West” silver and copper mining town dates back to 1883, and now a quaint downtown and artistic community remains amidst its ghost stories and folklore. Surely, Jerome’s panoramic view at 5000 feet and past reputation as “The Wickedest Town in the West” were enough reason for Ali and I to make the drive down early Sunday morning of the Labor Day weekend, but it was a particular event that peaked our (or rather my) interest: the Jerome Hill Climb.

My history in hill climbing– or more formally the sport of mountain running– is short and had humble beginnings. In June, my naiveté carried me half-way up the relentless 12% slopes of the Mt. Washington Auto Road before I experienced the most real form of mechanical failure. The renowned and quotable British commentator of the Tour de France, Phil Ligget, could not have described it better: “his effort is reduced to mere survival!” Having my unfavorable introduction to this new form of running masochism, I was left humbled but extremely motivated on that day. And I knew there was absolutely no way that I would abandon mountain running until I was at the top!

Looking over the course profile for my next marathon, Twin Cities, I recognized that I would need to become a stronger hill runner to be successful at this US Championship. So I worked in a few challenging, low-key hill climb races into my Summer training to improve my climbing ability. The first essay came in July at the inaugural RunFlagstaff Snow Bowl Road Hill Climb. After a practice run the week before (with Ali on bike), I soloed up the 7 miles of switchbacks and climbed over 2000 feet. I ran patiently and it was a much more controlled and sustained effort than my death throes up Mt. Washington. I felt good reaching the Agassiz Lodge Parking Lot, 2 minutes ahead of the second-place finisher and 1:30 faster than my practice run. I was excited with the improvement.

Now a month away from Twin Cities, and with my training volume at its apex, I signed up for one final ascent race. In its 40th running, the Jerome Hill Climb has evolved into a 4.4 mile race that gains 1100 feet in elevation. Starting at the Historical Park, the race course gently ascends into the downtown district and then heads up the severe mountain grades past the Ghost Town before continuing out on the winding dirt road to Perkinsville.

Even at a race distance of 4.4 miles, I stayed composed early on. I followed my breathing and worked with a steady, metronome-like cadence up the first mile. During the flat section I still maintained the same breathing pattern but allowed my legs to turnover quicker, while recovering and anticipating the hors catagorie slopes that became visible around the road’s bend. I had established a significant lead over the other runners and was still feeling comfortable. I waved when running by Ali, but seeing the upward road ahead had an unnerving effect. Luckily, my Smith Optics Pivlock V90 Sunglasses hid my solemn gaze.

After a dozen strides up, I had re-established a rhythmic connection between my breathing and my legs. Climbing requires more concentration and mindfulness (in contrast to the “autopilot mode” I might experience in a longer and flatter road race). There is constant feedback between the body and the mind. I’ve learned it’s not effective for the mind to override sensory feedback, but to manage it: to maintain an effort at my body’s limit without red-lining. As I have learned the hard way, the combination of ascending too ambitiously while racing at altitude is fatal; there is no point to recover and survival becomes the best possible result.

I followed the dirt road around the hillside, pressing but also enjoying the clear morning view. I could see the green patches of the Verde Valley, the Red Rocks in Sedona and Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks all the way up the Mogollon Rim in the distant horizon. It became clear to me why the Arizona Road Runners worked so diligently to continue hosting this race; it really showcases the State’s beauty. My focus abruptly shifted, however, as I was startled to discover the finish line chute around the following corner. I crossed the line in 26:45, and my Garmin 305 GPS Watch indicated I had run 6:05/mi pace for the 4.4mi climb.

A long run ensued after the race. I ran back down into town, changed out of my dusty Brooks T6 Racers and headed back up Perkinsville Road for about 13 miles. Marathon training isn’t over yet!

Then Ali and I went on our own “Tour of Arizona” after the race, heading to downtown Prescott for Sunday afternoon. We checked out the shops, craft fair and saloons on Whiskey Row (oh yeah and she also let me stop at the Public Library!). We rode back into the sunset that night, up the I-17, tired from our Wild West exploits. On Labor Day, I did an early morning workout in Camp Verde and then our adventure continued with a picturesque drive down to Fossil Creek. Here are a few photos from our relaxing Labor Day travels:

I hope everyone had a safe and relaxing holiday weekend! –JDE

Starting out

Welcome to my site and blog, where I will be writing about living and training in Flagstaff, AZ. Thanks to my family, friends, coaches and sponsors for encouraging me to follow my own road through life.

Greetings from the mountains of Flagstaff, AZ and welcome to my new site! I will be using  this blog to chronicle my life and training up in Arizona’s high country, while hopefully sharing some insightful and poignant vignettes about being a 25-year-old vegan marathoner, living it up in every sense.

It was over a year ago when I filled up a backpack with training gear, clothes and a few other necessities and left Rochester, NY for Flagstaff. I came here to train for a marathon– confident but not without uncertainy– and experienced a total metamorphaisis as a result. I lived with very little and dreamed big; I trained hungry and surrounded myself with the positivity of other like-minded individuals. I had the privilege of connecting with a coaching luminary, whose expertise and mentorship helped me mature both as an athlete and as a person. It was through hard work, tenacity and a little bit of luck that I have been able to establish myself as a Flagstaff resident and a top US marathoner. It has been quite a journey so far, but I have only started down the road…

I’m going to see where this road takes me. That’s what I think to myself when I am out running somewhere unfamiliar, and that has become my personal mantra. And so I am excited to start recording this next chapter of my life in Flagstaff, preparing for the US Marathon Championships this Fall and sharing my experiences and meanderings along the way. 

In closing, I would like to thank those who have so faithfully supported my quixotic life and running aspirations over the years: my family, friends, coaches and sponsors. This blog is dedicated to you, and I hope you will find my running updates and random musings worth following. I will leave the comments section turned on and encourage you to leave me feedback. Also, please explore my other pages to see my recent racing results, competition schedule, multimedia collection and sponsors. If there are any ways I can improve this site, or if you have any other suggestions or comments, please send me an e-mail at jeffrey@jeffreyeggleston.com.

Thanks for reading; I’ll see you on the road! –JDE