Reflections from Moscow

A few days and many time zones removed from the World Championship Marathon, I continue to re-calibrate and reflect on my experience in Moscow. My Circadian rhythm has been quick to adjust back to Mountain Standard Time, while my body and mind are slower to recuperate from Saturday afternoon’s strenuous effort. I know the residual soreness, which is the constant reminder of the very raw 2 hours and 14 minutes of running that I went through, will dissipate in the following days. The only souvenir I take and keep with me from Russia is the lesson learned from running a tactically smart race to achieve the best personal result possible. For me, that is the greatest reward, and something worth reflecting on.

SETTING EXPECTATIONS

It would be an understatement to say that I anticipated a challenging marathon leading up to and training for Moscow. Two years ago, I was humbled in the worst way in my first World Championships Marathon in Daegu; I was overwhelmed by the level of competition and wilted in the humid South Korean summer climate. It was not an experience easy to forget (although I lack recollections of finishing), and left me disappointed but very motivated. After receiving selection to my second WC Team in June, I resolved to redeem myself in Moscow. I knew it would require great preparation specific to conditions I might face in the Championship and also approaching the race with less naïveté than before.

Typical to a Championship, the course was nothing of spectacular difficulty; it consisted of an out-and-back start and finish in the Luzhniki Stadium, with 3 criterium-style 10K loops on a flat winding stretch of road parallel to the Moskva River. The biggest deterrent would be the lack of shade, along with the 3:30PM start time— thanks largely to Japanese wishing to watch our sufferfest over happy hour sake bombs.

The week before my race, I watched from my Boulder apartment as Valeria Straneo led an afternoon death march in 82 degrees (and warmer with the sun reflecting off the tarmac) that halted 23 of the 69 starters, with better finishers running 8-10 minutes off their bests. I watched some very tough athletes go down fighting, while a few tenacious Americans (Deena Kastor, Dot McMahan and Jeannette Faber) were able to keep moving up through the field. I watched a real race of attrition. It reinforced the fact that I would have to be conservative in my race, unless I wished to be carried off unconscious by medical personnel again.

Also in the week leading up to the race, the start list for the Men’s Marathon was released. I felt it was important to review and make some analysis of the field, so that I could establish some realistic goals and expectations. Looking through the list of 70 athletes, I noted that 36 athletes possessed a personal best faster than mine (2:12:03). While not a surprise, it helped me understand that as the 37th fastest entrant, it would be very tough to crack the top 15-20, which I had set my sights on. On paper, this field appeared as strong– if not stronger– than any other World Championship or Olympic Marathon: Ethiopia boasted five 2:04 athletes, Kenya had a full team with PB’s of 2:06 or faster, Japan entered five fresh 2:08 performers, with a slew of 2:07-2:09 internationals and also the reigning Olympic Champion Stephen Kiprotich. As the leader of our American trio with a 2:12, it felt a little like taking knives into a gun fight.

Upon arrival in Moscow 4 days before the race, I was able to relax with my teammates and run lightly. Our team staff was extremely supportive in getting us prepared: U.S. Team Coach Troy Engle helped manage our raceday logistics and with preparing our special fluids, while Dr. Randy Wilbur gave us some notes from the women’s race and strategies to help cope with the warm conditions (including setting us up with pre-cooling ice vests). In the days leading up to the race I felt fit and confident that if I ran smart, I could move my way up in a similar fashion to our American women.

RACEDAY

The race conditions proved to be 9 degrees better for us than the women on Saturday afternoon— which is quite a significant difference in marathoning. When we were herded from the final call room to the track in Luzhniki Stadium, it was 73 degrees and sunny. The blue track radiated heat as I lined up at the 100M startline with my U.S. teammates, Carlos Trujillo and Daniel Tapia. We had used 2 pre-cooling vests in our warm-up, although I had already broken into a good sweat under the direct UV rays. I used sunglasses and a white cap to minimize exposure– and also to disguise the discomfort I was about to go through.

We were among a very diverse field. The Kenyans all donned gold chains, proclaiming hip-hop superstardom in the marathoning world, while the Japanese wore very peculiar Sahara expedition-style sun caps.  When we were sent off, I tucked in for our first tour inside the stadium. I felt very composed in the first kilometers heading out to the closed road circuit that we would run on the Moskva River. The race field was bunched up heading into the first (smaller) loop and I tried to keep out of trouble by hanging back and running the yellow-painted course tangents. I remember a barrel-chested Tadese Tola powering by on his way to the front. Since running the Paris Marathon earlier this year, I knew how he and his Ethiopian teammates liked to muscle their way through to the front.

Jeffrey Eggleston_Moscow (Christian Petersen_Getty Images Europe)There was some chaos at the first few fluid stations given how crowded we were. It required some haphazard maneuvering to get to our U.S. Team table, which was alphabetically located near the end of the station arrangement. With my teammates in tow, we were all successful in getting our personal refreshments from Randy and Troy. Even after feeling amply hydrated from my concoction of Lemon-Lime PowerBar Perform sports drink, I made sure to hold on to the cold drink and take a few extra “insurance” sips. I also used a cool wet sponge to wipe down my head, neck and arms.

After making a hairpin turn, and now starting the first of three circuits, I crossed the 10km mat in 31:50. I was about 30 seconds off the front, where Tola was now stretching his legs and a long train of competitors followed in hot pursuit. Being about one minute slower than I would usually try to split for 10km, I felt almost too easy with the conservative pace. I estimated about two-thirds of the field was ahead of me, but I really wanted to proceed with caution for the next two laps. Time was not going to be my focus for the day and there was still more than 30km to run.

I was in good company. Carlos and Daniel were running comfortably along side me as we went through a misting station around 12km. Our trio moved past former NYC Marathon Champion Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa and a tall and gangly Hiroyuki Horibata of Japan. Fellow Canuck Rob Watson was moving forward with us, and seemed like he was also biding his time to move up. After covering another 5km in a moderate 15:50, I reached 15km in 47:40. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was 1 minute behind the lead and in 40th place.

Knowing how far back I was, I definitely felt anxious. Over the next 10km I started moving up. It wasn’t a dramatic move; I felt more like a magnet being pulled to the athletes ahead of me down the road. I picked up my bottle after 18km with ease thanks to Dr. Randi Smith and Bill Ito at the second U.S. Team table. I drank the entire contents of my bottle and again took advantage of the sponge station. After the turnaround, I had 2 laps to go and crossed 20km in 1:03:22. The half-marathon was reached shortly thereafter in 1:06:52. The splits mean nothing to me. I felt comfortable, alert and focused on getting through the next loop without any additional exertion. I continued to follow the course tangent line as I headed back through the mist station.

I bridged a gap to a Spanish athlete, 2:12 man Javier Guerra, and Sibusiso Nzima of South Africa. While Nzima was clearly laboring, the Spaniard seemed content with my asserting a new pace.  At this point it was nice to have some company, and so I settled in rather than trying to push ahead. We remained in this arrangement until 28km, where we split off to get our fluids. Going by Randi and Bill, I swiped for my fluid bottle and failed to grip it firm enough. It slipped through my hands and I was unable to recover the fumble. Rather than stopping to go back for it, I continued on and grabbed a Powerade bottle 10 meters later at the final table. Crisis averted.

JEFF EGGLESTON. MOSCOW 2013. Marathon

Entering the final lap, with 30km reached in 1:35:03, the Spaniard and I had pulled clear of Nzima. Thanks to the hairpin turn, we could see the casualties coming back to us. Among them was the grimacing Yuki Kawauchi. I knew this was going to be the decisive loop and so I didn’t hold back when we caught up to Yuki. Approaching the 33km fluid station, Javier and I had outdistanced Japan’s proclaimed “Citizen Runner.” I took a full bottle of my sports drink and a PowerBar Double Latte flavored PowerGel that I had taped to the bottle. It was a lot to ingest while moving at 3:07/km pace, and I had to be careful not to choke!

I led Guerra around our final u-turn in front of Red Square. It was my first and only glimpse of the colorful Saint Basil’s Cathedral. We crossed 35km in 1:51:20, and I was beginning to feel the heat. Somehow, the directional change helped me regain my composure. As we ran along the Moskva, I tried to press the pace as we went by Kazuhiro Maeda and Masakazu Fujiwara of Japan. I also passed my friend from Flagstaff, Jordan Chipangama representing Zambia, who had run courageously up front for 30km. As I passed back by Troy and Randy, they relayed the news: “Top 15 is possible!”

From 40km (2:07:20, 8th fastest split in the field from 35km to 40km) heading back to the stadium, I went for broke to hold my position. If I counted correctly, I was in 14th place! I followed the tangents around the turns and was trying desperately to put a gap between the guys behind me before getting back into the stadium. While trying to fend them off, I also found myself reeling in the dancing skeleton of Eritrea’s Samuel Tsegay. There was no response as I went by him and into the stadium for the final 300m.

sprintIt was the first marathon of my career that I finished in a stadium, and I used the crowd’s energy combined with my fear of losing a position to dig in. My Brooks T7’s (en route to the brand’s highest finish in the Championships) felt excellent on the mondo track surface as I propelled myself through the final 100m, straining every bit of the way. Despite some foot cramping and a twinge in my calf from the effort, I was able to hold off my pursuers by 6 seconds. I was exhausted and stumbled around as my body cramped up. My finish was shortly after confirmed: 13th in 2:14:23.

WHAT’S NEXT?

This was a great performance for me and I reaped the benefits of running a smart race.  Despite the rather pedestrian time, I’m proud of the fact that I stayed back and was able to attack and move up in the latter stages of the race. Part of being a good marathoner is knowing how to race smart, and I executed that pretty well in Moscow.

After some downtime, the next clear goal for me will be the ING New York City Marathon on November 3rd. I’m excited to return to my home state and race the greatest fall marathon in the U.S.. It will be a great opportunity to test myself against the best Americans and the best in the world. I am also excited to make my NYC debut representing the New York Athletic Club.

Beyond New York, hopefully my performance will help open some doors to new opportunities. Having achieved my 2016 Olympic Trials ‘A’ Qualifier this past weekend, I can’t help but think of the possibility of contending for a spot on the Olympic Team for Rio. I’ll continue to take it one race at a time, one year at a time… but certainly with a longterm focus.

In closing, I’d like to express my gratitude to my family, friends and sponsors, for their support as I trained full-time up in Boulder all summer. I’m so incredibly fortunate to have you all in my corner, and happy to share this success with you. If there’s one lesson, it’s keep faith and dream big! –JDE

A Phantasmagorical 5K… in VEGA$

Jeffrey and Ali take an Easter weekend trip to Sin City for the Las Vegas 5K, presented by Ryno Running.

It was Friday evening and we were hurtling across the desert in my Subaru Baja on the I-40… en route for Las Vegas. The Easter weekend had just begun, but our road trip was anything but a lively impulse. So what were we doing out here? What was the meaning of this trip?

Well, Ryno Running had broadcasted a 5K event to be held at UNLV, appropriately dubbed the Las Vegas 5K, which served as the perfect excuse for Ali and me to plan a trip to Vegas. Seeing that I had never visited Sin City in my 2-year tenure in Arizona, this seemed to be the opportune time– and in the spirit of Easter! So we both registered for the event in the weeks prior, with the resolve to be Vegas-bound after work that Friday.

The race itself was going to be as intriguing as the host city and its surroundings. The course was advertised as being “flat and fast,” although I had my reservations after viewing the course tour video (which gave me mild motion sickness):

I counted nearly 30 turns when warming up on the course Saturday morning. Ryno Running had it well-marked with cones and directional signs, so the route–either fast or slow– was obvious enough. Its design mimicked something of a labyrinth, following winding concrete sidewalks between faculty buildings and through the heart of the UNLV campus.

I finished my warm-up and arrived at the starting line at 7:52AM. A group of Japanese Drummers were performing, creating a very intense pre-race ambiance. As I was wishing Ali luck (it was her first 5K) and rehydrating, an abrupt announcement was made that the race would be starting in 1 minute. I quickly meandered to the front of the starting line, settling next to my affable MarathonGuide.com teammate, Trent Briney. Memories of the start are hazy from this moment forward. I regained consciousness in about 20th place, possibly on pace for a 400m personal best.

After a few early turns, I was in contact with a very eclectic lead pack. I passed a tall athlete wearing long basketball shorts and a Nike singlet. It was road warrior Christian Hesch. “What up surfer dude!” I said casually. When the athlete turned to me with a puzzled glance, I realized it wasn’t “Hollywood” Hesch. My bad.

I did recognize Ezkyas Sisay,  who distinctly powered his way to the front. He was still making it to the starting line when we were sent off, but had miraculously worked his way through the throngs of runners and pulled into the lead by a half-mile in. I went right after him, recognizing the threat of this Flagstaff-based 1:01:56 half-marathoner.

I had pulled clear of the other chasers by the first mile, and was focused ahead on the elusive leader. Chasing Ezkyas proved to be more like hunting the Predator; with dreadlocks flying, his strength and speed simply could not be matched. As we blazed through the main campus walkway, a stray dog chased after Ezkyas and nearly re-routed him. The dog had second thoughts. We then passed by a water station to the cheers of an enthusiastic group of young volunteers.

The course became increasingly technical in the final mile. We veered off the sidewalk into a grass courtyard before heading back towards the Thomas & Mack Center. I was still pushing forward in an effort to make up ground on the green adidas jersey ahead, but it seemed my efforts were only sustaining the +15 second margin.

I was careful on the final turns of the race, hoping the lack of friction between the outsoles of my T7 Racers and the grass would not send me sprawling to the ground. I crossed the finish decisively in 2nd place with a time of 14:47. Despite the slower time, I was pleased that I went after the leader (even if it cost me some time in the race). Course conditions aside, it was another important racing experience for me.

After I finished,  I watched Eric (our benevolent host) gut out his race and then I ran with Ali out on the course. It was great to see so many participants in the 5K, and also in the Cease to be Obese Charity Walk. Ryan Geurts and Ryno Running did a fantastic job coordinating these events!

After a marathon pace run, awards and a gargantuan veggie burrito, Eric, Ali and I hit the Strip that afternoon… it involved a certain degree of culture shock. Here are a few photo highlights:

  

Hope everyone had a Happy Easter! –JDE

  • Las Vegas 5K Results (insert “Hollywood” Hesch with his 15:01 Time Trial… dude missed the start)

Don’t Call it a Comeback!

Jeffrey blazes a new 10K PR in his return to racing at the Kaiser Permanente Pike’s Peek 10K.

I didn’t have a precise race plan for Saturday’s Pike’s Peek 10K in Rockville, MD– or if I did, it was simply to get to the starting line without any incident.  I never thought making it to a race start would become my primary goal for a competition. However in the past two months, I’ve encountered enough minor setbacks to keep me sidelined from making it to a starting line.

My plague of setbacks, which included a prolonged bout with the flu, culminated 2 weeks ago, when I managed to dislocate my shoulder 5 minutes before the start of the Cooper River Bridge Run. Fit and excited to compete, I cannot even recall how my shoulder separated as I was stepping off the athlete bus. I do remember the agony of watching the first wave of 40,000 runners depart Mt. Pleasant, as I was escorted by three firemen to emergency medical assistance. The E.R. visit, having to hitchhike back from the hospital and, later on, a speeding ticket on the I-17 made this one of the most challenging and tumultuous days I have ever lived.

I knew my streak of bad luck was going to change eventually, and it took all my mental fortitude to remain positive in the days that followed Cooper River. As I resumed training (I took my ridiculous-looking sling off the next day), I surprisingly picked up momentum and confidence that led me to believe I could come back 13 days after my mishap and race anyone


Pike’s Peek 10K

When we were sent off to race down the Pike Saturday morning, I went for it. I tucked into the lead pack of 18 Africans and we rolled. I had made a similar decision when I raced at the Brian’s Run 10K in 2008, where I fearlessly went with the leaders and gave it little thought—sometimes less rationalization is better in racing. I ran a 4:40 first mile, my legs still warming up from a delayed start, followed by a 4:37 and a 4:34, as MarathonGuide.com teammates Julius Kogo and Nicholas Kurgat stepped on the gas in the front.


I passed 5K in around 14:20, but really wasn’t processing my splits at the time; I was competing. The lead group was thinning out, and I focused on moving up and past the race casualties. As the lone American near the front, I picked up more momentum from the cheering spectators and Montgomery County Road Runners volunteers that lined our point-to-point route.

I surged up an incline after 5K and rolled up on an athlete in a yellow adidas uniform. I recognized the familiar face of former Olympian and 2:10 marathoner Girma Tolla, who I had ironically last raced at Brian’s Run. The leaders were still in sight. However without a pack, we were more vulnerable to the gusty crosswind. Even so, my legs felt responsive and I felt I could run a stronger second half of the race. I was breaking in a new pair of Brooks T7 Racers. By 4 miles (a 4:34 split), I was reeling in Reuben Mwei and Tolla was falling behind.  I was two-thirds through with my race, and knew the final third would be the real test.

I pulled even with Reuben after 5 miles (23:03, another 4:34 split) and we would go back and forth on this stretch of the Pike. I tested my legs (and his) up the last incline and could only see his tall silhouette stretched on the pavement. Looking ahead, the green jersey of Derese Deniboba floated ahead of me like an apparition.

Just after 6 miles Reuben pulled even with me, and we both sprinted home to the finish, nearly catching Derese in our own contest. I learned after crossing the line that I had finished 7th in 28:33. I finished 1 second shy of  U.S. Olympic Marathoner Dan Browne’s (former) course record. It was an exciting result, and I had executed a strong negative split (running 14:13 for my second 5K).

Certainly the Pike’s Peek course, along with the ideal racing conditions, helped yield some fast 10K performances and a plethora of personal bests were set. Akin to Monday’s  historic Boston Marathon,  where the world witnessed the fastest marathon ever run (and Flagstaff-er Ryan Hall also set an American best), athletes took full advantage of the the conditions on the Pike. Whether or not these performances can be recognized for record purposes is perhaps debatable, yet I don’t think any athlete should be discredited for running as fast as they can on race day. Our race had a very talented field and I believe we all pushed each other hard to run as fast as we did.

I’m excited to get back out on the roads and continue competing this Spring. I will continue to work on my speed before ramping back up into marathon training. It’s a relief to be over the setbacks that I’ve experienced, but it has been a great learning experience on how to keep perspective during tough times. Stay tuned for more! –JDE