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Interview with Jesse Armijo

Jesse Armijo recently qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials with a time of 2:17 at the California International Marathon.  As someone who works and goes to school in addition to racing at a high level, he's one of stories that make Trials such a compelling race.  You can follow Jesse's training at A Pondering Runner (http://jessearmijo.blogspot.com/). 

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1) Please introduce yourself to our readers (hometown, profession, running accomplishments)

Hello, my name is Jesse Armijo and I am originally from Laguna Niguel, California, but live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I've lived in Albuquerque since August of 2008, in which I was working on my Master's degree in Elementary Education while training for the Olympic Trials in the marathon.  Some accomplishments have been a 2:17:19 pr in the marathon, and a 28:59.96 in the 10000m on the track, which qualified me for the 2010 USA Track and Field Championships.  I am currently in search of a teaching position for the 2012/2013 school year.

2) Please tell us how you got started running (high school, college, any prior sports).

I got started running track and field as a freshmen, but I competed in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m as a sprinter, and was very bad at it.  I moved up to cross country my sophomore year, and continued at the longer distances throughout high school and college.  I also enjoyed snowboarding, surfing, skimboarding and skateboarding while I was in high school, but that trickled away as I entered college.

3) Could you describe your current training and how your training evolved since your scholastic running days?

That's a great question, as I was recently looking back on my running logs from my younger days, I have noticed a huge increase in volume.  During my scholastic days, I actually had more time to train but wasted it and only ran considerably low mileage.  I would say I averaged around 30 miles a week for an entire year, whereas now, I've increased that by nearly double for the yearly average.  During a heavy training cycle I've had my volume as high as 140 miles and tailored my workouts to the specific distances I would be training for.

4) Do you have any training benchmarks (key workouts, mileage goals) that tell you "I'm ready" before key events?

As long as I can run constantly high mileage during my training periods, then I am pretty confident in my abilities.  I do enjoy racing, but will use races as an indicator to what my end goal would be.  Before CIM, I ran two half marathons in the 1:05 range with marathon specific workouts, so I knew I would run a decent full marathon.

5) A lot of runners hang up the spikes permanently after their last collegiate race. What inspires you to keep training and racing?

I guess you could say I had a chip on my shoulder.  I ran at a NAIA school, and was only an All-American in cross country my senior year.  I so badly wanted to be an All-American on the track, but never accomplished that goal.  So, I decided I could better all my times after college and possibly make it into a national meet with more accreditation than a NAIA All-American.  I guess it's a real complex I had, and just wanted to tap out all the running ability I had while I still could.  A lot of my friends got great jobs, and made a ton of money, but as a career, my passion is in teaching (which doesn't make a lot of money) and I knew I could always teach for the rest of my life, but I wouldn't be able to run fast for the rest of my life.

6) Couple questions about altitude...a) How did you manage the adjustment process from SoCal to Albuquerque and; b) Having previously lived and trained at sea level, do you observe any difference when going back down now?

Well, I think I adjusted to the altitude very well, and very quickly.  The person who convinced me to move to Albuquerque (Kris Houghton) has trained with many foreigners and had seen the progression of their adjustment, and observed that I adjusted to very well.  I also increased my mileage right away, and within a few months, I ran a pr in the half marathon of 1:04:55 at sea level.  The benefit from coming down from altitude isn't noticeable to me, physically.  I do notice that I can push harder at sea level and see the improvement in my times as compared to altitude, whereas the harder you run, the less oxygen uptake is delivered and it becomes harder to recover.

7) 2:17 is a signficant breakthrough from 2:24-2:26. Did you make any changes from your other marathons or did the previous training simply come together?

I did change my training up a little.  I use a more Jack Daniels PhD. approach and did much more marathon specific training than in the past.  And after looking back at the entire training I did, I really benefited from the different phases I had.  It also, finally came together, as I had decent pr's at other distances that showed a promising marathon time.

8) As someone who is not a full-time professional athlete with the freedom to exclusively eat-sleep-train, how do you balance high level racing with school and other responsibilities? (note: Jesse finished his masters degree only weeks after qualifying for Trials)

Well, I had a packed schedule and just had to form a routine which allowed me to wake up early, run, student-teach throughout the day, run again in the evening, work on my thesis, and throw in an evening class once a week for good measure.  And as obsessive with running as I am, the teaching and school kept me away from being overly obsessive.

9) Do you have any particular keys for recovery, diet, injury prevention, and supplementary training?

I guess I attempted to put in more mileage as a form of recovery, just to shake things out.  My diet consisted of eating anything that wasn't nailed down.  In the past, I was overly concerned with health foods, and during this marathon cycle (and life), I found myself eating relatively healthy, but also consumed more coke than I ever had in my life.  I have a sweet tooth, so I ate plenty of desserts.  As for injury prevention, I try to be proactive with isolated stretching with a rope, rolling out, icing, and a bi-monthly massage.  As for supplementary training, I don't do anything like that.  I just try to run more.  During my time off after a marathon, I'll hit the pool a few times, but only a couple times a year.

10) You were very successful on the track before your marathon breakthrough. How do the shorter events and the marathon complement each other in your approach to training and racing?

I think the shorter events help me keep an edge on my speed and form, so that when I have to practice marathon pace, and tempo workouts, they become more achievable and manageable.  Become the most efficient for yourself is key in the marathon, and the shorter events allow you to practice that.

11) Is there anything that you've learned about training that makes you say, "If I only knew then what I know now."?

Mileage!  I really wish I would have ran more mileage, and not necessarily at a faster pace.  Just get the volume in.  I do not believe there is such a thing as junk mileage.  The workouts were all the same, but the mileage is the key ingredient for success. 

12) Other than perhaps a trip to London (gotta think big!), what are your plans for the rest of 2012 and beyond?

I don't really have any plans, other than to do well at the trials and make an assessment after that.  I know I want to run another marathon in 2012, so maybe a fall or winter marathon, unless I'm on the US team in London...  

Thanks for a great interview Jesse.  Run fast in Houston!

Comments

It was great to see such a

It was great to see such a great person like Jesse drop his marathon time from 2.24 to 2.17. I was in the race and can tell you, he ran like a machine that day, great effort.

Nate
www.rundreamachieve.com

Jesse

Thanks for your comment, Sir.  We've been fortunate to know Jesse since college and his career is a great lesson in perseverance!    

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