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

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

A Short Reflection on Grandma’s Marathon

Jeffrey’s concise reflection on finishing 5th at Grandma’s Marathon in 2:13:12.

My trip to Duluth for the 35th running of Grandma’s Marathon was an excellent learning experience. The race came a month after winning Pittsburgh, and 2 weeks after pacing 30K of the Ottawa Marathon. I was not worried about my time, race splits or trying to be top American– I was only running to win. I remained patient early on and worked into a good pace with the other top Americans, Matt Gabrielson and Tyler McCandless. By 18 miles I had pulled ahead and joined the lead group, which included several athletes I ran against in Pittsburgh (I may have heard the Swahili phrase for “Sh*t not again!”). I threw in a hard surge near a water station to break up the large group, and we went from a dozen to 6 athletes. 2:07:06 marathoner Charles Munyeki was one of the surprise casualties. Around 21 miles I fell off the front. A Flagstaff-based training partner from the previous week, Teklu Deneke Tefra, stayed in contact and narrowly missed victory in a sprint duel with Kenya’s Christopher Kipyego. After they pulled clear, I soldiered on to the finish in 2:13:12, a 57-second personal best and also currently the #3 U.S. performance for 2011. I also kept my record of negative splitting in tact, despite the pace variation once I joined the leaders.  I cannot be too disappointed with a race in which I took some risks and come out with a new personal best–but it leaves me hungry for more and I am confident I will only get better. I look forward to demonstrating that next in Daegu, no longer a rookie in the marathon.

Stay tuned for more comprehensive updates! –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

Who could win… a rabbit?

Jeffrey’s recap of rabbiting the Pittsburgh Marathon… and then winning.

It was quite a weekend in Pittsburgh! As I reflect back on the the unexpected result, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes not having a definitive race plan is beneficial. As a race ‘rabbit’ brought in to assist other athletes and fully-participate in all the weekend events, I had a very planned-out stay in the Steel City. And yet, after 18 miles of pacing on Sunday, I decided to improvise a little…

Highlights from the Event Weekend

On Friday night, I attended a reception for all the generous event sponsors at the LaMont Restaurant. It took some convincing on my part to the Restaurant staff that I was with the Marathon event, and not the Junior Prom that was also going on. After enjoying a glass of Cab and taking in the panoramic view of downtown, I was given the opportunity to address the sponsors on behalf of the elite athletes and Olympic Trials hopefuls. It’s quite humbling to speak in front of such a distinguished group– which included the Mayor (who was making his half-marathon debut), sponsors and the entire race organization. However, I was glad to convey the fact that their support goes a long ways in helping many aspiring athletes realize their dream. Later on, after watching some fireworks and having another glass of Cab, I chatted with Race Director Patrice Matamoros. I thanked her again for having me, and joked with her that maybe I would win her race on Sunday.

On Saturday I took part in the Kid’s 1-Mile Fun Run, along with fellow pacer Tom Tissell and the Steeler’s charismatic Ryan Clark . Through the Kids of Steel Program, over 500 kids from five area school districts logged up to running a total of 26.2 miles– with the final mile being run during the event weekend. I was excited to be a part of the Program’s finale, and witnessed an incredible turnout of young students, their teachers and parents all enthused to be running! I ran with the group from McClellan Elementary School, having met their dedicated PE teacher the previous evening. Despite a false start by Ryan, I was able to work up through the field of smiling and reddening young faces to finish 2nd in 6:57. I high-fived the top finisher, and had him promise me to one day run the marathon. He said he might, as he collected his medal with satisfaction, and as others zipped through the finish. I was pleased to see so many youngsters getting exposure to running as a healthy, life-long activity!


Leading up to Sunday, I had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with many talented athletes.  It was great meeting and talking to Tom, a very experienced marathoner (and multiple-time Olympic Trials Qualifier) who was pacing the Women’s ‘B’ Qualifiers. I also met a very friendly group of Ohioans the first evening at dinner. After the Fun Run on Saturday, I went for my own run on the nearby river trail with Tyler McCandless, a recent PSU Grad and 2:17 marathoner pacing the Women’s ‘A’ Qualifiers. Later on, I caught up with some of the U.S. athletes targeting the OT Qualifying Standard, including American citizen Boaz Cheboiywo. Whenever I travel to races, it’s nice to meet new athletes and also see a few familiar faces. Everyone seems to have a unique story of how they became involved with the sport (and particularly with the marathon), and I find myself learning from them. More than any other sport in the U.S., distance running is a relatively small and tight-knit community.

Race Day

My approach to Sunday was like that of any important workout or race: I made sure I was well-rested and adjusted to the time zone; I ate well and prepared most of my foods; I also maintained a high level of focus on the task at hand. I certainly felt a great amount of responsibility to the athletes I would be pacing, which had me equally as excited as anxious– while both sentiments quelled any competitive ambitions. When race morning arrived, I followed my usual routine: coffee and breakfast (including a Raw Revolution Bar) 3 hours before “go” time, active-isolation rope stretching (thanks Tyler for lending me your rope!), and some ipod-shuffling (rocked out to Girl Talk’s All Day mix).

As anticipated, we had a rainy and humid race morning. It was a very balmy 60°F when I was warming up with Lauretta, a former teammate from my UVA days who I had literally run into that morning. After some easy shaking out, I pulled on some dry CEP Compression Socks, put on my Garmin Forerunner GPS Watch and switched into a Team  MarathonGuide.com sleeveless Brooks shirt (I had forgotten to pack my singlet); I was ready to rabbit!

The marathoners and half-marathoners lined up together on Liberty Avenue under a large yellow banner. I found Boaz and made sure we were in close proximity. Once sent off at 7:00, we were quickly swallowed up by the half-marathoners taking off. I watched MarathonGuide.com teammate Nicholas Kurgat push to the front with his neon Spira shoes visible in his long back-kick. He was shadowed closely by a former Hansons-Brooks teammate Ryan Sheehan and a few NYC-based, WSX runners; I knew he would have his work cut out for him. My focus immediately shifted back into setting our mild cadence: 5:18’s. A few female elites had pulled ahead.


Due to the rain and cloud coverage, my Garmin was not receiving the best GPS signal. I had to rely more on the clocks each mile for feedback. I recall being a little slow at 5K (just over 16:30), but Boaz, Nik Schweikert and a few half-marathoners bolstered our group. I felt very relaxed leading the group, as if it were another Sunday long run on Lake Mary Road… albeit with some company!

I tried my best to keep the pace as metronome-like as possible. The undulating roads over bridges kept me awake; I remained steady up the inclines and held back going downhill. I encouraged Boaz to tuck behind me on the bridges to avoid cross-winds. I had an eventful course tour with my friend, Eric, the day before so I knew the general tangents of the race course. I made sure our fluid stations weren’t as uneventful, as I cautiously grabbed my bottles of Vita Coco that I had prepped the previous day.

The half-marathon leaders were well out of sight, after we crested the West End Bridge and followed a long stretch on Carson Street. There was a visible contingent ahead, which I suspected were the marathon leaders. Still, I maintained our pace and mentioned to Boaz that we were right on schedule.

After crossing the Birmingham Bridge (around 11 miles), we faced the largest climb on the course. I tried not to impose the pace too much up the hill, given that it would even out later on– and I had 7 more miles to make sure of it.

I reached half-way around 1:09:20, which I felt would give Boaz a nice buffer to achieve a sub 2:19:00. I noticed shortly after that he fell back at a fluid station. I was not sure whether he missed a bottle or was under any physical duress, but I hovered off the pace a little to help him get back on. With credentials of 1:01:35 for half-marathon, 27:46 for 10,000m and 13:19 for 5,000m, Boaz proved to be among the most legitimate athletes in contention for an OT Qualifier and winning the race. I was quite humbled to be rabbiting him in only my third time entered in a marathon!

Unfortunately, the elastic between us was stretching and the next few miles proved that Boaz was faltering. My Garmin was semi-accurately reading  5:18 per mile, so I kept the same rhythm  to ensure I was fulfilling my rabbiting responsibilities. I pulled by Genna Tufa, who had fallen off the leaders somewhere after Mellon Park. I estimated we were over 30 seconds behind the race leaders, which had me curious about what was happening up front. The curiosity continued to build on Frankstown Avenue as a pack of 6 leaders grew closer. I crossed 18 miles well within range of the group. No longer the rabbit, I thought, why not go for the win?

The race began for me between 19 and 20 miles, when I joined the tête de la course. I was the lone American among a small group of East Africans: Isaac Birir (Kenya), David Rutoh (Kenya), Tariku Bokain (Ethiopia), Teklu Deneke Tefera (Ethiopia) and Jynocel  Basweti (Kenya). As soon as the leaders identified my presence, I surged right by them into the lead. By injecting a harder pace (4:40), I wanted to see who could respond right away. A minute later I stepped off the gas and looked around: one runner was already off the back of the group and I saw some concerned faces. This was my sign; it was time to finish them off!


For the next 3 miles, I controlled the front of the race and mimicked a fartlek workout I had done a few weeks prior. I pushed at the front for varying intervals lasting 1 to 5 minutes and then recovered with a moderate pace– which was dictated by the surviving runners. Teklu, a new Flagstaff resident, responded to my surges a few times but fell back on our descent down Liberty Avenue. A MarathonGuide.com athlete, Chapel Hill-based Isaac Birir, had also quietly peeled off by 23 miles. In the next mile, I could only hear the labored breathing of David and my squishing Brooks Green Silence.

I started another surge (4:40 pace according to my Garmin) with less than 2 miles to go. David dropped back dramatically at a water station. I knew this was the KO punch! I maintained the acceleration to put as much distance on him as possible. A cyclist informed me I had put around 70 yards on him, as I crossed the final bridge over the Allegheny River. I enjoyed the final straight away to the finish, offering a few high-fives and trying to process what I hadn’t planned on doing that morning: winning! Despite the hard surges, I crossed the tape feeling very comfortable– I was pretty surprised with the time given the pace of my first 18 miles!

My post-race replenishment involved a cool-down, some interviews and an afternoon outing to Abay Ethiopian Restaurant. With Eric, his sister Kristie (who ran a 3:27 first marathon!) and her boyfriend Turadg, we gorged on several vegan dishes including: Inguday Wat (spiced mushrooms and brown lentils), Mesir Wat (red lentils), Tikil Gomen (cabbage and carrots) and Ye’ Abesha Gomen (kale, peppers, ginger and garlic). It was the perfect post-race, nutrient-dense meal. I can see why Ethiopia produces so many strong athletes, given their diet!


On to the next one…

So for now I continue to run nice and easy. The recovery has been quick thanks to a few hearty vegan meals and some ART treatment with Dr. Kymberlee Wilkens. I’m both charged with the weekend’s results and with the exciting news released about our strong USA World Championship Marathon squad for Daegu. I’ve definitely learned some more about marathoning this weekend (particularly how to race), and I am anxious for my next 26.2 mile essay, now having a victory under my belt.

So thanks again to all my family, friends and sponsors for their continued support. I’m happy to share this weekend’s success, and I look forward to making more progress in the next race… one that I am actually scheduled to compete in! –JDE

Race video, courtesy of Eric Boyce (more coverage here):

The Weekend Forecast

Jeffrey’s thoughts on the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend.

It’s Friday the 13th and I am feeling lucky as I drink my own brewed pot of Peet’s Coffee. Yesterday evening, I arrived in Pittsburgh as a system of heavy thunderstorms rolled through. It was a foreboding sight to witness nearby lightning strikes from my window seat as we flew over downtown Pittsburgh and prepared for landing. Needless to say, my tensions were assuaged when we finally touched down.

Well, it’s going to be a busy and exciting weekend here in the City Bridges— the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon is on Sunday. Right now, I am working on adapting to the 3-hour time change from Arizona (hence the coffee). I am very grateful to be here and have the privilege of pacing Olympic Marathon Trials aspirants through the generous OT Qualifying Incentive Program; I am ready for the task! As the event weekend is just about to kick-off, I wanted to provide a preview of the race and offer my own insights as the men’s pacer.


The Weather


It appears yesterday evening may have been a foreshadowing of the weekend’s outlook. Although it will likely be humid and rainy out, the marathoners will be fortunate to have a moderate temperature (low 60’s) and calm winds (0-3mph) for the 7:00AM start. The thunderstorms are not predicted to arrive until Sunday afternoon (just in time for my return flight).

As a marathoner, I’ve come to accept the fact that the race-day weather is a variable I cannot control, so I try not to become overly-concerned about the conditions. When I am racing, I recognize all athletes will have to compete in the same conditions and sometimes a personal race plan can be modified. However as a pacer, I recognize I cannot make adjustments to Sunday’s plan; I am here to bring athletes promptly through race checkpoints on schedule for  sub 2:19:00. So in this case– for the sake of OT hopefuls– I do hope Sunday’s weather complies.


The Course

I will be formally previewing the Marathon route on Saturday, although my preliminary conclusion is that it’s an “honest” course. There appears to be minor ups and downs throughout the race– I suspect crossing the many city bridges will contribute to the variances in profile. However, there is not an overabundance of directional changes, which I believe are far more interruptive to a marathoner’s rhythm. That being said, I don’t think any well-trained athlete with good marathoning intuition will have any problems with the route. I recall my coach’s advice: you can make any course fast if you run smart!


The Field

Who will be closely following the low-emissions Hybrid Toyota pace car? Here is a very tentative list of elite entrants for the Marathon:

Men
Jared Abuya, KENYA
Isaac Birir, KENYA
Joshua Busienei, KENYA
Gregory Byrnes, Pittsburgh, PA
Benson Cheruiyot, KENYA
James Gathoga, KENYA
Peter Kemboi, KENYA
Richard Kessio, KENYA
Choge Julius Kirwa, KENYA
Ronald Kiptoo Kurui, KENYA
Kipyegon Kirui, KENYA
Moninda Felix Marube, KENYA
David Mealy, Medina, OH
Jeffrey McCabe, Exeter, PA
Jason Ordway, Bellbrook, OH
David Rutto, KENYA
Nik Schweikert, Canton, OH
Don Slusser (Masters), Monroeville, PA
Joel Stansloski, Tulsa, OK
Stephen Tanui, KENYA
Teklu Tefera, ETHIOPIA
Genna Tufa, ETHIOPIA
Kameron Ulmer, Boise, ID
David Wilt (Masters) Pittsburgh, PA
Kostyantyn Zhelezov, UKRAINE

Women
Serkalem Abrha, ETHIOPIA 
Ann Alyanak, Bellbrook, OH
Erica Braswell, Birmingham, AL
Cheryl Collins-Gatons (Masters), Greensburg, PA
Pauline Wanjiru Githuka, KENYA
Emily Harrison, Flagstaff, AZ
Deirbe Hunde, ?
Carol Jefferson, Greenville, PA
Divina Jepkosgei, KENYA
Salome Kosgei, KENYA
Natasha LaBeaud, Flagstaff, AZ
Veronika Lopatina, RUSSIA
Alice Waruguru Ndirangu, KENYA
Lauren Philbrook, State College, PA
Tammy Slusser (Masters), Monroeville, PA
Truphena Jemeli Tarus, KENYA
Alena Vinitskaya, BELARUS

It appears that both the Men’s and Women’s races have several viable Olympic Trials Qualifiers. A few distinguished international athletes also stand out. The Men’s race includes Kenyans Peter Kemboi (2:09:21),  Benson Cheriyot (2:11:33), Stephen Tanui (1:01:29 half-marathon) and David Rutto (2:12:22) David Kipkorir Rutoh (Baltimore Marathon Champion in 2:13:11, 2:10 PR?) . Defending Champion Alena Vinitskaya (2:32:58) of Belarus should have tough competition from Ethiopia’s Serkalem Abrha (2:32:06) and the Kenyan duo of Alice Ndirangu (2:39:13) and Salome Kosgei (Iona College Alum).

Check back here for elite entry updates.


Musings of a Rabbit

As one of three pacers— with Tyler McCandless and Thomas Tissell respectively pacing the Women’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ Qualifiers– I am removed from the competitive context of the race. My objective is to set a steady 5:18/mile pace for the American men. It is a different experience for me in a marathon, because I’m usually accustomed to employing different race tactics when competing. In this situation, I will need to keep as even a pace as possible and do everything I can to pull my group along. Even as a pacer, I have an equal level of excitement as if I were racing, given how much responsibility I have to these athletes!

I do think I personally benefit and will learn a lot from being a rabbit. I am getting more valuable experience in marathoning by being in the race, while having the opportunity to complete a good training run (also in similar conditions I may face in Daegu in September).  For me it is a privilege to have this responsibility, and I am most appreciative that race organizers Patrice Matamoros and Kelsey Jackson have offered me this opportunity!

Please check back for more weekend updates and follow me on Twitter @jde66leston! –JDE

Here are a few race-related articles of interest from the Post-Gazette:

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