D3 Featured Athlete, April 2020 - Jeff Krebs

Photo of doctors and nurses looking at the camera
April 23, 2020

D3 Staff



Jeff has his sites set on racing the Boston Marathon and it's his journey navigating the changes around the race, plus his unselfishness to un-retire as a physician to help on the frontline of the Covid-19 Pandemic that grabbed his coach's (Julie Dunkle) attention for this spotlight.

The Tokyo Marathon this past February was the intended warm up race for Boston, but it was canceled because of the COVID circumstances.  With Coach Julie's guidance, Jeff pivoted and jumped into the Napa Valley Marathon instead.  Jeff had an incredible PR - a lifetime personal best!  That is momentum you want to build on and take with you into your A race, and they were excited.

The athlete-coach duo planned a strong recovery, and time to design the strategy for Jeff's Boston training (which should have only been a couple of months away).  But then, Boston was rescheduled for September.  

We know that scenario has played out for many athletes, so find comfort knowing this is a shared experience. But what's special here is that Jeff took the high road and genuinely took this in the most positive way and he grabbed hold of the opportunity to help on the Covid-19 front lines.   Jeff and Julie made a decision to adjust his training emphasis and are now working on a bike focus to maximize what he can during this challenging time. 

Coach Julie shares that Jeff exemplifies the D3 motto.  "He is disciplined and determined to execute every workout as written.  His desire for success is apparent both personally and in his profession.

We have an amazing partnership, he listens and takes direction but it not afraid to ask questions and will always listen to his body, even if that means a workout modification." 

We are proud to call him a D3 athlete! 

Read on for inspiration!

1.  As a physician and a triathlete, your priorities must have shifted during this pandemic.  What has changed for you?  What has remained the same?

Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic I was a retired Internal Medicine physician turned full-time triathlete. I was enjoying the fact that my daily priorities were all about my training and racing. Medicine, however, was never just a job for me.  It was my “calling.”  Shortly after the pandemic began, I was asked by my medical group if I was interested in returning to work at any level (very sporadically all the way up to full-time). My specialty is Hospital Medicine and as such, I take care of the sickest of the sick and my skills and expertise are needed currently. I never hesitated to return to the workforce.  

Still, one of my priorities is to maintain a healthy balance in my life which includes taking care of myself physically as well as emotionally and spiritually. Although I am back in the hospital caring for COVID-19 patients, I maintain my training as a major priority for me. My endurance sports training makes me a better physician. Swimming, biking, and running are my forms of meditation and allow me to clear my mind of the stressors in my life. I can return to my job as a physician with a clear and more focused mind. 

2.  What are you doing to stay positive, keep yourself motivated, and moving forward during this time? 

I had a really nice race schedule planned for this year. My first race was the Pasadena Half Marathon which was set as just a training day prior to the Tokyo Marathon on March 1st. I had a fantastic race in Pasadena and placed 2nd in my AG. I was mentally and physically fully prepared for Tokyo until it was canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Tokyo would have been my last required Major Marathon of the World to get my 6-Star commendation. I was quite disappointed but knew that it was the right decision by the race organizers.

Not wanting to waste my fitness, I immediately jumped on the internet to search for another race.  I found the Napa Valley Marathon which was to take place on the same day so I registered and within 15 minutes had my flights and hotel reservations finalized. Although it was not Tokyo, I was excited again as the prospect of racing and I was motivated.  My D3 coach, Julie Dunkle, and I agreed on a pacing strategy that would give me a PR for the marathon distance.  My prior PR was a 3:24:29 at the Chicago Marathon last year. I was really hoping to hit 03:15:00 this year. Napa turned out to be a fantastic race for me.  I have never felt more prepared thanks to my training and have never felt more energetic during a race.  When I crossed the finish line at 03:04:04 I was ecstatic.  

My finish in Napa gave me the energy and the confidence to continue training hard.  I knew that what Julie and I were doing together was the right thing. Since then, I have had a number of races canceled. I still have IM Wisconsin 70.3 and IM Philippines 70.3 on the books but they, too, may be canceled or postponed and I am fully prepared for that.  My goals for this year necessarily had to change. For 2020 I wish to be the best version of me that I can achieve. It is not about the race or the finish line.  

It is about the process which is ongoing and THAT is what motivates me.

Jeff KrebsMay 25, 2018   ©2018 Rich Cruse/ CrusePhoto.com

3.  What are some things/ways that Coach Julie has helped you modify your training during this time?

Julie has been an amazing coach.  From the beginning, we have communicated together extremely well and she is very attentive to my needs. Initially, I did not need my training schedule altered but once my pool closed, Julie made some modifications to work around that. In addition, once races started getting canceled or postponed, we took the new-found opportunity to work on the less strong aspects of my racing. I have already seen some very positive gains and once races start up again, I think that I will be in a much better position athletically than if we had not had this time handed to us. 

Jeff KrebsMay 25, 2018   ©2018 Rich Cruse/ CrusePhoto.com

4.  You can put your physician hat on (or keep your triathlete hand on):  what are 1-3 things that you would like triathletes to know right now? 

We are all going through unprecedented and difficult times.  We are concerned (even scared) about getting sick and have been disappointed that our race schedule has been up-ended.  Take comfort in the fact that triathletes are some of the healthiest people on the planet.  My advice as a physician and as a fellow athlete is to continue to do what we love doing.

  • Continue to train.  Exercise boosts our immune system and will help us stay physically and mentally healthy.  
  • Continue to eat well.  The current “down time” is not an excuse to eat poorly.  I look at myself as a high-end sports car (think Bugatti). I would never put regular fuel in the tank…only premium.  Food fuels our daily activities and we deserve the best. Take the time to get good quality rest.  We perform better, get stronger, and recover quicker with good sleep.
  • Last, and certainly not least, PLEASE  follow the current health guidelines of frequent hand washing, wearing a protective mask when out in public, and observing physical distancing. Let’s stay safe and healthy so we are ready for our race season, whenever it may be.  

5.  Thinking back to the race where you had your PR in February, please describe your thoughts as you learned of your PR. 

My first thought was elation, “ what did I just do?"  This was immediately followed by “I hope Julie is not pissed at me for going faster than we had planned and faster than the pacing she pre-programmed into my Garmin.” As soon as I crossed the finish line and I got to my mobile phone I wanted to call her.  I decided to wait just a bit to ride my “high” just in case she was upset with me.  When I finally texted her she was as elated as I was so it was really the perfect day all around. 

6.   What is one thing (or two) that you want to remember about that race that you will carry forward? 

Following my nutrition plan was very key for me and I felt physically fantastic with lots of energy throughout the entire race.  I need to remember to ALWAYS FOLLOW THE PLAN! I also remember how I felt physically at various points in the race.  I KNEW that this felt different from previous races and I knew that it was OK to listen to my body and turn it up a notch.  I felt secure in my abilities based on being in tune with my physical self.  I need to remember to “check in” with myself from time to time and that it is OK to make adjustments accordingly. 

7.  Please share anything else you would like to about yourself, your training, your career, your family/friends, or whatever is top of mind! 

I am so fortunate to have had an amazing career both as a physician and as an athlete (I was a former high-level competitive figure skater as a teen and young adult and then a cyclist before becoming a triathlete) and to have a terrific family who has always supported me in everything that I ever wanted to do.

We are so proud of Jeff, and hope you draw on his amazing story for inspiration!

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