The Interval, 5/17/17

Texas Switchback, photo courtesy of Trieu Phan

The second annual Texas Switchback Trail Race was held on Saturday at Flat Creek Crossing, near Pedernales State Park. Over 400 runners competed in the 10K, half marathon, and marathon events. I was there to run the half marathon. We lucked out with cool and dry spring weather, conditions that would have been much appreciated by 3M or Austin marathon runners a couple months ago.

The Trail Roots team, led by Erik Stanley, marked out a 13 mile loop and set up a start/finish area on a high point overlooking a swimming hole at the creek. It’s a beautiful spot and it was great to hang out with hundreds of happy runners before and after my race. The first few miles of the course were mostly flat, just short ups/downs, but very twisty and technical. Miles 6-10 included some new and rougher trail that had not been much used by mountain bikers, so most runners slowed down in this section. The last couple of miles were near the creek and included several climbs and descents of the bluffs before the final steep 100 yard hill at the finish. Trieu Phan (@trieu.phan) put together a great video with drone footage of the race.

The men’s 10K was won by Chris McWatters of Tejas Trails in 46:55. Drew Rasco was second and Matt Hanlon third. Doug Hadley was the masters winner. The women’s race was won by Natalie Piccetti-Moos in 53:26. Jenn Harney was second and Jennifer Wright third. Betty Helgren was the masters winner.

Hannah Steffen won the women’s half marathon in 1:41, followed by Rebecca Schild and Sam Godbold. Cyndie Saucer was the masters winner. The men’s half was won by Doug Alles in 1:32, better than 7 minute pace for a trail half marathon is impressive. Jonathon Moody and Jeffrey Ruggini made up the podium. I was the masters winner.

Amy Baker dominated the women’s marathon, with a 3:23, good enough for third overall. Lise Plantier and MJ Redman also placed and Nancy Marks won the masters. The men’s marathon was surprisingly competitive, with David Zuniga passing Paul Terranova during the second loop. Zuniga ran a 3:10 marathon with a negative split of nearly 7 minutes. Paul also ran a negative split, but was about 50 seconds slower. Eloy Gonzalez was a distant third. Berton Keith won the masters.

Full results are here.

Michael Kleinpaste is a friend and fellow member of Trail Roots and this was his first marathon, on his birthday! He agreed to answer a few questions by email:

1. Your time of 3:37 would be impressive from any marathon, but this was a trail race with twists, turns, uneven footing, and a fair amount of climbing. That is a super time and I hope you’re proud of the accomplishment. Tell us about your race.

Yes, I’m definitely proud of the time and even more the effort leading up to the race. I have run/trained with marathon groups since around 2010 but never felt the urge to actually race a marathon. I’m much more interested in the community or tribe component of running than the racing. However, a sequence of small nudges rather than a defining moment led me to sign up for the Texas Switch Back 2017 Trail Marathon.

The first nudge for me was finding the experience of a trail run. For me, the experience starts the night before, camping, drinks around the campfire, seeing the big dipper light up the sky, and the moon rising over the Hill Country. These are great moments of contemplation that set the stage for a trail run.

The second nudge, the cows. I know this is crazy but there is something about running near cows. You smell them before you hear them. When you hear them their mooing is like cheering with a depth previously unrealized. Last you see them. Often standing across the trail; but only for a moment, the speed at which something so large can move out of the way is mystifying.

I could go on about trail running but will move on to two main details that stood out to me as a first-time marathoner.

First, the perception of time. Looking back after the race I realized it was almost four hours of running—half of a ’standard’ workday. In a strange way the hours flew by yet the details were vivid and precise (calorie consumption, ounces of water, ounces of electrolytes, etc.), compared to other moments of life that may go by less noticed.

Second, immediately after the race is the clearest I have ever felt just how dramatically different are the thoughts “I should have done better” and “I know I can do better.” I have always grouped these together and been bothered by these sentiments. But something clicked! The former is stuck loathing the past. But the latter can be an optimistic and energetic view for the future, not intentionally negating any current achievements, but accepting those and being excited by what could be next.

2. Your second loop was a bit slower than the first. Did the increasing temperature bother you towards the end of the race?

Yes, the second loop was definitely slower for me. I think there was a series of contributing factors including the increasing temperature that led to the slower second loop. However, the biggest factors probably lie with the folly of me as a first-time marathon runner. I only consumed 200 calories during the race, all between miles 5-12. But possibly more problematic is that I only consumed water up to mile 18 then finally a small amount of electrolytes. This probably was the cause of a side cramp from miles 20.5-22. I was really enjoying the run that day spending most the time in a zen like mindset and not enough time in an ‘I need to eat and drink’ state. I guess live and learn.

3. You ran the half marathon in this event last year and your pace was slower than for the marathon this year. Was this your goal race for the spring? Tell us about your “running community” and training.

Last year my goals for the half marathon were different. I was more focused on being out with the community and did not do as much training leading up to the event.

This year the race was a ‘check-in’ for a group going out to Bryce Canyon next month for an ultra trail run. I’m excited to be a support member in that group and it helped encourage me to build up my mileage in consistent and small increments with perfect timing for Texas Switchback to be a little more than a ‘check-in’ run for me.

Since I moved to Austin I have run with Trail Roots. Like mentioned before, I prefer running for the community or tribe aspects and working with the community to complete daunting tasks for yourself, others, or even sometimes all involved. Some of my favorite runs of my life have been with the Trail Roots group running out in Big Bend where you are dependent on your running tribe to find and stay on the trail, share water and food as needed, provide moral support, and as a group complete a run that would have been impossible or too risky as a solo runner.

Michael will be part of a group supporting Patrick Creel and Clay Scott during their run at the Bryce Canyon 100 mile race next month.

A few of my running friends had the following to say about Texas Switchback:

“The best thing about the Switchback, is seeing so many good friends pushing themselves, supporting each other, and having fun together. Great time!”  Tracey Goodrich

“Exploring Trails and caves just outside of Austin…I had the most amazing fun running my first 10K Trail Race at TEXAS SWITCHBACK 2017.”  Betty Helgren

“Not gonna lie, I just had a lot of fun racing a 10K this past weekend at the Texas Switchback! I forgot the feeling of wrapping up a race by 9am. haha! Thanks Erik for the fun race.”  Chris McWatters on Facebook 

“The course lived up to the name. That 5th mile was nuts between all the switchbacks and the crossover for the 10K. But honestly, I’m not going to complain after all the fantastic May racing weather we’ve had.”  Andy Bitner

“At about mile 4 the 10K course split from the main loop for what Erik described as “a short, hilly section” before rejoining the main loop. That quarter mile was probably the toughest section of the course and at least once I found myself scrambling up a hill on all fours.”  Matt Hanlon

“The course was interesting. We got a good variety of hills, switchbacks, and nice single tracks. The support on the course was pretty amazing-it seemed like at every turn there was an aid station, volunteers, or spectators out there supporting you. I felt lucky to run and lucky to have the support of a great community. The near perfect weather didn’t hurt either. I don’t know what we did to deserve the moderate temps this TX spring, but I was grateful for them.”  Amy Baker

“I loved the course, seemed a tad short, but I didn’t mind!  The course was really well marked.  So well marked that when I came back from the swimming in the creek, I wandered onto the course by accident!”  Michael Langer

“After training with the Trail Roots community for about a year and a half now, this race felt like home. Running over the mountain bike ramps was a fun addition this year! It made my day to find a “You Got This!” note on my car from the Explore Austin youth (the event beneficiary).”  Alexandra Gwynne

Interesting news and articles

I missed this item last week:  Allison Macsas, winner of the 2017 Austin Marathon, was second in the Vancouver Marathon on May 7.  Her time was 2:39, a new PR by 3 minutes.  She nearly won the race, finishing just 4 seconds behind the winner.  Allison works for Rogue Expeditions and is currently leading a trip in Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia.

I’ll read anything by Pam LeBlanc and her Fit City article on Monday was about Reveille Peak Ranch.  They’ve added a new 26 mile loop of trail and now have ~40 miles at the site.  I’ll be out there soon for the last race in the Rogue Trail Series- the Ranch.

I liked this Trail Runner Magazine article:  What it Takes to be an Ultrarunner.

Upcoming races

I’m not aware of any big races in the Austin area this weekend.  A week from Saturday is the 40th Annual Daisy 5K by the Austin Runners Club, at Camp Mabry.