Reigning CDR winner eyes 2016 Olympics
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Less than a year after his arrival in Ravenswood, Jeff Weiss has become a familiar figure in the town's neighborhoods, a sleek 6-foot-2, 165-pounder running at a brisk pace through the streets each day, sometimes as early as 6 a.m.
The 27-year-old Weiss is not only fitting nicely into his adopted community but is training for what he hopes will be a spot as a marathoner on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.
When school starts, he'll begin his second year on the faculty of Ravenswood Middle School, a 10-minute walk from his residence, making it convenient for him to nail a 40-minute run before school.
Weiss's running is a year-round thing. Even in the dark of winter, streets lights provide plenty of illumination for those early-morning runs. After school, he may go for another. He's even found some nearby ridges that offer the kind of hill training essential to every hard-core runner and Olympic aspirant.
In addition to his Olympic hopes, Weiss would like to win another Charleston Distance Run on Aug. 31. On the Saturday before Labor Day last year, shortly after taking the Ravenswood job, he saw the Capital City for the first time and won its annual 15-mile race in one hour, 21 minutes, 14 seconds.
It was the start of what has been an enjoyable stay in West Virginia. A native of Western Pennsylvania and a 2009 graduate of Slippery Rock (Pa.) University, he came to Ravenswood at the suggestion of his fiancé. He plans to be married in September and expects to work as a volunteer assistant coach in either cross country or track. He'd like to someday work as a head coach, quite possibly in Ravenswood.
He seems to have found a home.
"It's a nice active community,'' he said recently. "People are out walking and running and riding their bikes. But it's isolated enough that you don't have any issues with traffic. I'm enjoying the people here, and I like the country atmosphere.''
Not that his new life has been totally without a downside.
"My summer,'' he noted, "hasn't been as exceptional as I hoped it would be.''
Like any avid runner setting his sights on an ambitious goal, Weiss has felt inklings of mental fatigue, prompting him to cut back somewhat in his training.
"You hit those peaks and valleys,'' he said, "and I was kind of in a valley there. I just kind of lost some of that mental edge. You need to recharge the batteries every once in a while and come back stronger. I kind of went through a dead phase there for a while. I dropped some mileage and added a lot of bicycling and cross-training.''
His idea of cutting back on mileage meant running just 30 to 50 miles a week. Once he resumes full marathon training, he'll increase the total to about 100 miles, including a good mix of interval training, tempo runs and a weekly 20-mile jaunt.
Even as he was cutting back, he still found the energy to win the Athens (Ohio) Half Marathon in April in 1:05:30, averaging five minutes a mile. He finished more than nine minutes ahead of runner-up Jason Pyles of Charleston, who won the 2010 Charleston Distance Run.
Weiss's resumption of full marathon training will begin sometime next year. Once he's reached peak fitness, he'll compete in several marathons, seeking to qualify for the Olympic Trials scheduled for January of 2016. Those trials offer the opportunity to be an Olympic marathoner.
In October of 2011, he ran a 2:17:22 in the Twin Cities Marathon to qualify for the Olympic Trials in January of 2012 but performed poorly in the trials, placing 81st of 84 finishers.
"I didn't have much time to build back up from my qualifier,'' he said. "It took a month to recover, so I had two months to get ready, and it was winter. I kind of knew it would go badly.''
Reach Mike Whiteford at email@example.com.