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

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

Twin Cities Marathon

Here’s my unabridged recap of finishing 2nd at the 2010 US Men’s Marathon Championship at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.

I could see my breath during my routine shakeout run before 5AM on race morning. It was calm and brisk out as I jogged in darkness through downtown St. Paul, but I knew in a few hours that the sun’s presence would raise the temperature to 40°F and create the perfect Fall marathon racing conditions.

I ate breakfast quietly back in my hotel room, having a generous bowl of Hemp Plus Granola with Silk. The previous evening, I had eaten copious amounts of pasta, bread sticks and salad at the athlete dinner. Aside from the 4 bottles of Cytomax Natural Citrus I had waiting for me on the marathon course, these meals were my sole fuel sources for the race. After a few cups of coffee (using my new French press travel mug that Ali got me), I felt equally nourished and alert. At 6:00AM, it was time for me to depart for the race. I kissed Ali goodbye, packed my bag and braved myself for the morning that I had anticipated for so many months.

At the athlete staging area, I went through my active-isolation rope stretching routine while listening to my ipod (beats from my “Marathizzle” hip-hop playlist ).  Around 30 minutes before the race, I joined former teammate and Flagstaff roommate Mike Reneau for an easy warm-up run, afterwards doing some surges at marathon pace to wake the legs up. With 15 minutes until race time, I switched into all my racing gear: my MarathonGuide.com singlet, my lightweight Smith Optics racing sunglasses,  CEP Compression socks and a newly-minted pair of Brooks Green Silence. The cooler morning temperature also called for gloves and arm-warmers to help keep me running warm and fluid.

The start  was uneventful for me. Once we received the anticlimactic send-off, I tucked in to a large group and observed as a few other athletes made their ambitions known by maneuvering to the front. Just as well, I thought, the real race won’t begin until about 30K.

Just as I had for the Rock’n’Roll Marathon in Phoenix, I came down from altitude less than 2 days prior to the race. Again, I knew that it would take the early miles to adjust to running at sea level, and that I should ease into my marathon effort naturally and establish a comfortable breathing pattern. The first few miles clicked off slowly, but I ignored my watch and followed my breathing while my muscles were also warming up for the race ahead. Passing 5K in 16:11, I was in a second chase group with many of the favorites, and could still make out the tête de la course down the road. We were winding our way by the Lake of the Isles, the first of four lakes we would encounter in the first half of the race. I knew I was in good position and out of trouble. Any energy I could conserve now would work to my advantage later on.

During the next few miles, we lost sight of the early leaders and we were still well behind the chase group, which I felt contained a few dangerous athletes (Reneau in particular). Cabada took the initiative to start organizing an effort to bring back the chase, and we traded miles to share the work. Simon Sawe and Mbarak Hussein were also very helpful in contributing to the effort. After grabbing my Cytomax bottle at mile 5, I took my turn up front. I usually refrain from talking during a race, but I felt that our communicating was vital in preventing a huge tactical error. I told Hussein that by 10K we should be in range of the group ahead.

Sure enough, we joined Reneau’s chase group between 10K and 7 miles. It didn’t require a major increase in effort to catch the group (we were 32:11 at 10K), and I suspected they had possibly slowed down. Even so, I realized that we needed to continue our gradual momentum forward and not allow the leaders too much more distance. Up the road and over 40 seconds ahead were Dave Jankowski, Seth Pilkington and Luke Watson– three athletes I felt were very capable contenders and needed to be taken seriously.

It was as if I were back in July, watching a long stage of the Tour de France. Was the break away going to survive today? Given the personnel of marathon veterans in my group (Reneau, Hussein, Sawe, Cabada and Reyes), I felt it would be very difficult for any athlete to run away from our group and live to tell about it. As it turned out, we continued our organized effort past Lake Harriet and on the rolling Minnehaha Parkway. I hardly took notice of the colorful canopy of trees that had caught my attention the previous day on the course tour. I was focused on the task at hand.

The half-marathon point was reached in 1:07:21. We had caught Watson and Seth while rounding Lake Nokomis with a few miles around 5:00 and were approaching a sharp turn back onto the Parkway. Staying in the front end of my group, I was unaware of any athletes falling back. As we made the turn, I saw a few others were laboring to keep up, including Simon “Skips” Sawe. At mile 14, we split 4:55, even with the slight incline running back on the Parkway. The pace did not feel any more difficult, but I resolved to keep patient for at least a few more miles. I took another Cytomax bottle at mile 15 to keep hydrated. Jankowski was still over 30 seconds ahead, although he no longer had anyone helping him.

It’s hard to recall who controlled the pace during the next 3 miles.  I ran side by side with Reyes, then Cabada and before I knew it our trio had pulled away from Hussein, Reneau, Sawe and Tyler Sygl (who we had been up front with Jankowski earlier). Dave’s orange jersey had become increasingly visible so we knew we were going to make the catch soon. I took over at 17 and was anxious to test out the legs. I didn’t realize until later that we split 4:47. I was still feeling fresh, and it appeared Reyes and Cabada were too.

During the stretch on West River Road, we were accompanied by a motorbike, which I learned later was doing live video coverage of the race until their camera died. Directly in front of the race was a trolley, which served as the official press vehicle. While I was aware of both their presences, my focus was on catching Jankowski and thinking about when I would try to test my competitors again.

At 30K (1:34:44), the catch had been made and our group of 3 was pulling away from Zap Fitness’ intrepid debutant. Now it was up to us to sort out our places on the podium. I still had a step lead at mile 19, as we turned onto the bridge to cross the Missippi, but I never picked up more than a stride on either Sergio or Fernando. We reached the 20 Mile mark together in 1:41:31, still with poker faces under our sunglasses. Once the infamous hill leading to Summit Avenue began, I knew it was again time to test out both their legs and mine.

I had prepared myself for running hard uphill all summer in Flagstaff. I raced up Snow Bowl Road, climbed up Jerome, had several training runs up Mt. Elden and would wring all the effort out of my legs each Sunday in long runs coming back up Lake Mary Road’s rollers. I worked relentlessly to make my own vulnerability in climbing a strength. Having studied the Twin Cities course and profile, I was well aware of how decisive the final 10K would be; the advantage would be given to the stronger hill runner.

At 20.6 I took my final Cytomax bottle. The station came a little later than I had wanted (I prefer not to take any drink during the final 30 minutes), but a few sips ensured I would not run low on electrolytes or succumb to muscle cramping. I lead the way by a step up the hill, and could hear Cabada’s heavy breathing over my own. As we crested the climb, I felt the increased effort but knew I was not alone.

I think any athlete having a dream of winning this race wants to taste the lead entering Summit Avenue. Still leading by half a stride, I was the first to make the highly anticipated left-hand turn. The crowd presence and excitement of leading encouraged me to dig into the slight upgrade. I knew Cabada was faltering but Sergio had given little sign of discomfort. Between 22 and 23, he moved even with me and then took over the lead. I responded as quickly as I could, but a gap was beginning to form.

Having often been asked why I train alone, I explain that the critical moments in the marathon come when you are by yourself and you alone have to decide whether to push forward or settle in. I like to think that working out independently has challenged me each time to make the conscious choice to push forward. Once gapped by Reyes, I was again left to decide whether I would fight or fold.

Miles 24 and 25 were agonizing. Both my legs and arms burned, and I felt I had to consciously focus on directing each stride forward and drive my arms without overreaching. With a mile to go, the gap was around 9 or 10 seconds and I knew I could not wait. I just kept grinding… past the growing crowds and with the State Capital coming into view.

As I barreled down the hill towards the finish, I ignored the sharp pains in my quads generating from the impact of each footstrike. I was in the highest gear I could manage, not only with the ambition of trying to run down the race leader, but in an effort to make sure Cabada did not employ his superior track speed to take away the final automatic World Championship spot. Even after Sergio took the final strides up and broke the finish banner, I continued to red-line my engine and reduce his victory to 7 seconds. As I crossed the line, I hadn’t even noticed I had run a new PR.

I was spent after the race, on my hands and knees. I only knew Ali was with me when I recognized her boots. I was escorted to the medical tent and then directly to drug testing. When it came time for the awards ceremony, I was over the heartbreak of finishing runner-up by 7 seconds, and smiling about my 2:14:09 PR and World Championship berth.

Looking back on the race, I really have no regrets with how I ran. I wanted to win, and I tried everything I could in the final third of the race (my body is telling me that now as I write this 4 days later). If anything, I had to use every ounce of energy in me to make Sergio’s victory a 7-second margin. And I’m extremely proud to have established a new personal best time (running a negative split on a challenging course) and also qualify for next year’s World Championships. In my second marathon, I have clearly made some progress. And I don’t believe this will be the last time I fight for a US title.

For now, I will enjoy my downtime and continue to reflect on my racing experience. At the same time, I am already hungry and looking forward to my next chapter in the marathon.

In closing, thanks again to my faithful family, friends and sponsors. Your support has carried me this far, and the best is yet to come! –JDE