The Interval, 5/3/17

Cassie Henkiel at the USATF Masters National 10K championships.  Photo courtesy of Cassie.

Before I get to the local races I need to mention the USATF Masters 10K National championships.  The event was part of the James Joyce Ramble held this past Sunday in Dedham, MA.  Cassie Henkiel, one of the fastest women in Austin, was entered in the race, the fourth time she’s raced for the US 10K masters title.  Cassie ran a 37:58, 6:07 pace, and placed fourth, just a few seconds off the podium.  She’s placed second in this race in 2011 and 2012.  Full results are here.  Cassie answered a few questions by email:

1. The course is described as “hilly” but I couldn’t find a profile. How would you compare it to Cap10K for difficulty?

Its been ages since racing Cap10K, but I’ve run it for fun in recent years….the masters championships 10K course seems more challenging. With Cap10K most of the hills are over in the first half of the race. This course Sunday has two decent steep hills around 2.5-3.5 miles (around a school property), then coming out of the school, there’s a long rolling straight stretch for about a mile, then the last turn to the finish is roughly 1K’ish & a slightly uphill rolling climb until the flat last 200 to the finish line. This course tests everything: fitness, mental toughness, strength and speed into the finish.

2. The top 4 women were all close, within a minute at the finish. What was your strategy and how did the race play out?

These last several years I just show up to races and don’t look at the start lists. Due to ‘newbie’ 40’s that can debut at any US masters championships race, I just show up and see how the race unfolds. There seems to be fewer familiar faces these days. Therefore, I usually suss out the field through the first mile and also check my splits, here I will make some decisions on adjusting pace & position depending on the length of the race.

This race on Sunday, I only recognized a few faces upon approaching the start line. (Marisa Strange, a very tough 53 year old, who has several master’s titles was one.) After the first mile I was in 4th, the lead female, Marisa, took it out pretty hard, with 2nd not far behind her & 3rd just ahead of me.  In the US 10K championships race, both men and women start together, which can be beneficial to use the men to push you within the female race. As we approached the school where the hills were about to start, I lost sight of the 1st and 2nd place females due to the jigs & jags of the previous mile, I still had the 3rd place female in sight. Once out of the school and two rather steep hills under our belt, we started that long rolling stretch with a slight head wind. At that point looking ahead I lost sight of the 3rd place female (40 year age group) behind a group of guys and I was trying to bridge a significant gap to the next men ahead. After the first roller I realized the lead female, Marisa, had faded and fallen back and there she was and now in 3rd. At all US masters championships races, you’re required to wear 2 bib numbers; front & back. Back bibs are for your 5 year age group category. So I keyed off her and tried to keep reeling her in. Having about 2 miles to work with, I’m gunning for her, my chance at taking over 3rd place. Going into the last turn to the finish, she’s now even closer and think I might have a chance to catch her. Again, it’s about a 1K uphill until the last flat 200. Once reaching that last 200, I thought I had her within reach and kicked it in, though just ran out of real estate!! S*•+!!! She had no idea I was coming and I was that close. That cost me some $ but kept my 4th place overall finish. I felt good about my race effort, especially not really racing since October, at the US master’s 5K championships. Thank goodness the weather was pretty ideal, except for a slight wind. Can’t complain…it was a great morning to start my 47th birthday!!

3. You’ve been training with Carmen Troncoso’s group for years and with great success. What makes that “running community” work for you?

Yes, I have trained with Carmen’s group for quite sometime now, not sure the exact year I started. This all came about with Ricardo (her husband) who had been coaching me for well over a decade during my open racing career. Carmen and I were once training partners for many years, until we changed up our racing distances/goals which left me training solo for a while. Ricardo recommended I start coming to Carmen’s group where I could at least have the support of others she was coaching, even if I was not doing the groups’ workouts. It’s a huge help to have that energy & support doing any hard intensity workouts. After the 2008 US Olympic Trials for the marathon, I thought I was done racing but the US master’s circuit called me back. That was when I fell more into Carmen’s group & Ricardo handed me off to his wife. I’ve loved the consistency of the days, times and people who have been so committed to this group! Carmen and Ricardo both have played a huge and pivotal role in my running/racing career and success. They are truly one dynamic duo; their knowledge of the sport, coaching, support and friendship. I am grateful for how ever many years ago it was, they took me under their wing!! We’ve been doing this ‘running thang’ for a very long time!

Thanks to Cassie, especially for the description of the race.  I’ve run mostly against the clock and it’s always interesting to me to learn about how elite runners compete against each other.

Hill Country trail runners had to choose between 2 prime events this weekend: Pandora’s Box of Rox by Tejas Trails on Saturday, and The Tangle, the second race of the Rogue Trail Series on Sunday.  Those that opted for The Tangle were certainly luckier with the weather conditions.  In total, about 900 people were entered into the various races this weekend, an impressive number.

The Pandora events were at Reveille Ranch up near Lake Buchanan and ranged from 8 miles up to a 52.4 mile double marathon.  It was a warm and humid day, difficult conditions for all the runners, particularly those in the longer distances as the temperature increased and the limited shade come into play.  The 8 mile winners were Matt Ange in 1:08 and Jennifer Ballard in 1:16.  The most runners competed in the half marathon, which was won by Erin Fort in 1:56 and David Zuniga in 1:37.  Jeff Zenger (3:27) and Michelle Blackard (4:52) were the winners of the marathon.  Only 21 people finished the double marathon and the winners were Lise Plantier in 10:59 and Matt Smith in 8:57.  Full results are here.

The men’s double marathon podium at Pandora: Wade Barrett, Matt Smith, and Thomas Orf. Photo courtesy of Jaimie Orf.

Thomas Orf finished third in the double marathon, in 9:30, capping a string of strong performances in spring ultras:  second at the Saddle Blazer 100K, and third at the Hells Hills 50M.  Thomas emailed me his thoughts on the race:

As with all my races, I had no real time goal I was shooting for. My plan was to just go out and run as hard and as fast as the day would allow. I knew it was going to be hot and it wasn’t going to be a super fast race, but I also didn’t think the race would end up being that tough and slow for me.  But, with ultras, some races go as planned regarding the running, the nutrition, physical and mental aspects, and weather, and some races fall.  Then there’s some races that will test a person’s mettle.  This race turned out to be one that was going to test me and others as well! 

Matt Smith, Steven Bartlick, Wade Barrett, and myself led the way, but kept things pretty easy due to the high humidity.  I think we all knew this was going to be a long day and there was no reason to go out fast this early.  Better to wait and see what the day was going to bring.  This turned out to be a really good decision.  Matt and Wade sped up on the second loop, which I figured they’d do.  I felt if I tried to keep up, I’d suffer more later, so I held back, which I’m glad I did.  I felt pretty good on the first two loops even though they were pretty slow.  By the third loop, the small yet constant climbs along with the heat, and my nutrition not going as planned, the race was starting to take a turn for the worse.  I knew if I was going to make it to the finish, I need to adjust, and adjust quickly.  I started taking more time at the aid stations to pour ice and water on my head, drink lots of water, take some strategic walking breaks to avoid overheating, and rather than use only Tailwind, I alternated between Tailwind for one hour, then Mountain Dew or Coke for the next hour, and keep repeating.  While I felt pretty bad, I knew I wasn’t the only one.  As I came up on people that were still on the course later one, it was very clear that everyone was being beaten down by the granite dome and the heat.  As bad as things felt for me, once I finally reached the last aid station and had only 2 miles left to the finish, a smile came over me because I knew the fight was going to end soon, I’d see my wife, get a massage, sit down, have a beer, and spend the rest of the day hangin’ with some great friends as we cheered on many others left to come in who braved the day. 

Chris (McWatters of Tejas Trails) and his crew did a great job marking the course and making sure there was plenty of ice and water out there for us.  As usual, the volunteers were tremendous in taking care of us. Lastly, I think I’ve discovered the best homemade cinnamon rolls, which are made by Esther Beachy.  It’s a family Amish recipe and unfortunately she won’t give it out.  If you were like me and thought Cinnabon was about as good as it could get, try to get one of Esther’s!!! 

The next Tejas Trails race is The Festival on June 3.  Maybe they will have more cinnamon rolls….

The weather conditions were much more favorable for The Tangle on Sunday.  A cold front blew in during the night so instead of warm and humid we had cool and dry, with a nice breeze.  The 10K course at Flat Creek Crossing starts up on a bluff over the creek and the first 1.5-2 miles snake downhill, with twisty, rocky single-track.  So much fun.  The main climb is the the fifth mile and all of the course is entertaining, with creeks crossings, meadows, even a tunnel.  30K runners ran that loop 3 times.

The men’s 30K was won by Mike Kurvach in 2:13, just one week after a solid eighth place finish at Cap10K.  His first lap split of 43:06 would have also won the 10K Tangle.  Moses Luevano was second in 2:18.  Rafael Posada was third.  The masters winner was Paul Terranova while Paul Lane won the grand masters.

Amy Baker lost a little skin but still won the 30K at The Tangle.

Amy Baker dominated the 30K women’s race, finishing in 2:44, nearly 15 minutes ahead of Sam Godbold.  Kristen Bartiss was third.  The masters winner was Sky Canaves and Laura Nye led the grand masters.

Amy answered a few questions by email:

1. What led to your switch this year from road racing to trails?

I have been a road runner for a long time. This past year, I’ve struggled a lot with injuries. I have found my body doesn’t feel as beat up after the trail because every step is a little bit different. It is also a nice mental break from the monotony of the road. Trail running allows me to explore new places and keep my body and my mind fresh with new challenges.

2. The weather was perfect for The Tangle and the trails were in great shape. You ran the first 10K in about 56 minutes, which would have been top 10 in the 10K, and went faster on the next 2 loops. Not many people can claim a negative split 30K. What was your race plan and how did it go?

My race plan was to keep my effort relatively easy the 1st lap and gradually work into it. I wanted to run by effort, so didn’t look at my pace or time until the last lap. I also wanted to finish feeling good enough to do the training I have planned the next few weeks. Each loop, my effort was just a little higher and I felt a little more confident. I was happy with the result. The course was gorgeous and we were lucky to get such great weather in late April!

3. You’ve won the 30K for each of the first 2 Rogue Trail Series races. Will you be at the third race, The Ranch? What other races do you have planned for the spring and summer?

Yes! I plan to finish the series. I love the 3rd race out at Reveille Peak Ranch. I really enjoy racing local and supporting local events and the Austin running community. I’m doing the marathon at Texas Switchback in 2 weeks and Spectrum’s Sky Island 50K in September. I’m also planning a few longer races this summer.

The women’s 10K winner was Chris Kimbrough, in 49:47.  Krysten Tucker was a couple minutes back and Katie Gwyn was third.  The masters winner was Carolin Knobelspies.  Susan Fegelman won the grand masters.

Chris is getting back into racing and it was great to see her out at The Tangle.  She answered a few questions by email:

1. It was a beautiful morning on the trails. How did you like the race?

It was a great day all around! Nothing like chasing your favorite running buddies around a beautiful trail with fantastic weather! The Rogue Trail Series has always been a favorite of mine. They are very well done, have great volunteers, technically challenging, and of course definitely good beer after!

2. You passed me on the first real uphill section and easily won the women’s race. Were you cruising or was this a hard effort?

I was happy chasing you around the first couple miles. I rolled my ankle a couple times so I was being a little cautious and complacent most of the race. I felt very comfortable the entire race and being my first trail race of the season maybe a little slower on the downs than I should be. Overall it was a good effort and I was happy with my performance.

3. You’ve been talking about some more trail races. What do you have coming up?

I’m planning on running the Trail Roots Texas Switchback in a couple weeks. Still unsure if I’m doing the 10K or 1/2 marathon. Also the last Rogue trail race. Hoping to spend a lot of time on the Greenbelt this summer and logging some Hill of Life repeats with my old man crew. I’m racing an ultra relay in Bend, Oregon the beginning of August. That will be a mix of trail and road at high altitude. I’ll be running about 36 miles in 24 hours. That training should help me get ready for the Spectrum Sky Island 50K in September.

Finally to the men’s 10K.  The Przybyla brothers, Joey and Matthew, led the race after the first couple of miles and Joey pulled away for the win in 45:56.  Jaimie Cleveland barely held off a hard-charging Paul Rademacher for third.  Douglas Brock was the masters winner.  I won the grand masters.

Full results for The Tangle are here.

Interesting News and Articles

A couple items on Western States 100, which is coming up in June.  First, an article from Trail Runner Magazine on qualifying for this iconic ultra.  Second, an inspiring video about Brian Morrison, who nearly won WS100 in 2006, and finally completed the race for the first time in 2016.  Watch for Paul Terranova near the end… (Hat tip to Dan Hannon)

You should read this ESPN article about Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian runner who was second in the marathon at the Rio Olympics.

The Legend of Pearl from iRunFar is a good read, if you like dogs and running.  Or just dogs.

The Nike Breaking2 effort should take place this weekend.  This article from Let’s Run has an inside view of Eliud Kipchoge’s training.  Part 1.  Part 2.

Upcoming Races

The Travis Country 5K is this Sunday, along the rolling hills of this pleasant neighborhood.  Last year nearly 400 people were in the race.  My friends did well:  Karen Saenz and Paul Terranova were the winners and Andy Bitner won masters.  Andy is running again this year and promised me some pictures…

The Silicon Labs Sunshine Run is also on Sunday, with familiar 5K and 10K courses starting and finishing at Auditorium Shores and out and back on Cesar Chavez.  About 1000 people ran in these races last year.