The Interval, 6/28/2017

Western States 100 winner Ryan Sandes breaking the tape

Sam is still off on vacation, True Believers, so you’ve got me again for another week.  He did make the local paper up in Alaska, though.

Western States 100

It was tough going for Western States 100 competitors this weekend with snow and ice to start and temps over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the desert stretches.  Ryan Sandes of South Africa played the tortoise to Jim Walmsley’s hare and took the lead with 25 miles to go for the victory in 16:19. Walmsley ignored the weather and went out at a sub 14 hour pace, aiming for a race record.  He dropped out with about 22 miles to go.

In the women’s race, American Cat Bradley took the win in 19:31 as race favorite and Comrades winner (who could not take advantage of the Armadillo bump) Camille Herron dropped out early in the race.

The Austin area entrants were 42 year old Paul Huggins and 40 year old David Iler.  Paul finished in 27:11 and David crossed the finish in 27:37.  Congrats to both of them for completing the race, particularly given the weather.  Hopefully they’re taking a little R&R before heading back to the summer sweatbox of Central Texas.

If you are a stat head *cough, cough*…Matt Fletcher….you might find this analysis of the Western States leaders pretty cool.

Captain Karl’s Pedernales

Unexpectedly mild weather (for late June in Texas, anyway) was the topic de jour for Captain Karl’s 60k/30k/10,000m races in Pedernales on Saturday evening.  Tejas Trails were up to their usual standard, keeping with the race theme of Everybody just relax man, we have ya all night long.” A splendid quote by renowned fitness buff Jerry Garcia.

Local Spectrum runner Thomas Orf led the way on the 60k with a 5:25 finish, which by my math comes out to 8:57 pace.  On a trail.  In the dark.  Over 36 miles.  Nice weather and all, but that was a heck of a run.  That was the same pace on my 3 mile run around my neighborhood Sunday morning.  I hope Thomas got to sleep in after that.  Joe Schmal and Wade Barrett were second and third, respectively.  Shandra Moore was the first female finisher and 5th overall in 5:55.  Jessica Head and Margot Swank rounded out the podium for the 60k.

Michael Mark won the 30k with a 2:24 time, followed by Stefan Grater and Jonathon Garner.  Melanie Rabb won the women’s race in 2:37, followed by Laura Cortez and Laura Huning.

The 10,000m race was hotly contested for all of 30 seconds before last-minute entrant (and Texas Trail Championships grading curve destroyer) Mike Kurvach rocketed off and won the race by almost four minutes and shaving two minutes off his CR from last year.  Colin Hagen finished second and Matt Hanlon, last week’s Interval interviewee and recipient of the Armadillo bump, finished 3rd despite taking a spill with about a mile to go.

Matt Hanlon, not doing his racing wounds justice in this picture. Please ignore the idiot photo-bomber behind him. The Armadillo’s Photoshop budget is not up to the task of removing him. (Photo courtesy of Steve Mock)

Local beer mile legend and speed golfer Chris Kimbrough was first female and 5th overall, followed by Jill Hillegass and Airon Andrews.  Kudos to Chris for keeping her watch, timing chip and headlamp in place for the entire race.

This week’s Interval interview

I had the opportunity to ask a few questions of trail running power couple and Spectrum Trail Racing co-founders, Mallory and Jason Brooks.  They’re extremely fortunate that I’m not clever enough to come up with a portmanteau of their first names, a la’ Brangelina or Bennifer.

The Armadillo:  How did you & Jason decide to start your own racing company?  What was the driver in that decision?
We wanted to bring a different feel to the Texas trail racing scene. We had seen what Washington State’s Rainshadow Running had done with their exciting post-race party and wanted to show Texans that same vibe…with local Austin flavor at the finish line! We also saw a need for more single loop races, so we sought out properties with more terrain.

The Armadillo:  All hail single loop races!  Why did you choose to name your company Spectrum?

Mallory:  We wanted a name that implied these races are for everyone, all skill levels, ages…

And then we looked up an image of a color spectrum and it looked like an elevation profile, which we loved.

The Armadillo:  I’ll admit that I’ve only run one of your non-Vagabond races, so I think I’m okay asking this one:  What makes Spectrum different from all of the other racing companies out there?

Mallory:  We try to find properties no one else is racing on, we try to find properties with as many unique miles of trail as possible (and use them all!) and, of course, the after party…our start/finish atmosphere. You’ll always find Jason, myself, and our race team at the end of your race, throwing medals around your neck, handing out high fives, and making sure you have a cold beer in your hand. We are also one of the few race companies that cover your park entrance fees, race photos/videos, and provide you with a warm lunch at the finish.  We also don’t do price increases. 

The Armadillo:  Mmmm….beer…..  Can you expound on what you mean by not doing price increases?
It’s common for race companies to have price increases leading up to their races. We found that this just hurt people whose schedules or jobs didn’t allow them to commit months in advance. We didn’t want to penalize them, so we chose our lowest price from the previous years and eliminated the $10 increase each of the 2-3 months before a race. We also don’t have a swag penalty for those signing up late. Goodies for everyone!

The Armadillo:  You’ve recently started offering coaching services as well.  Was this part of the plan all along or did it evolve over time?

Jason:  We actually started coaching the Rogue trail program before we got Spectrum off the ground. We recently started offering online coaching, though. Our online coaching is designed as a compliment to, or alternative for, traditional group training programs. Through online coaching we deliver individualized training plans and various tiers of attention between coaches and athletes. Individualized training programs allow us to work with athletes 1:1 to understand their lifestyle, training history, fitness, and training and racing goals. We then use these inputs to develop an individual, race-specific training plan, accompanied with intuitive coaching feedback and support to adapt to an athlete’s training over time.

The Armadillo:  Your races are well known for really cool and unique race swag.  Who is the genius behind those?

Jason:  Mallory holds all the creative genius in our family (well, Paxton has inherited these talents!).

The Armadillo:  What are the 3 most important things you look at first when starting up a new race?


  1. How beautiful/unique in the property? 
  2. How much trail is available and is anyone already racing on the property? 
  3. Is the property conducive to a Spectrum after party?!
The Armadillo:  What makes a property conducive to a Spectrum post-race party?
First, and in no particular order (who are we kidding?):
The allowance to have local beer at the finish line.
Event space, wide open, with room for a band and festivities.
The Armadillo:  Beer, the cause of, and solution to all life’s problems.  How important is it that there may be other races on the property?
At half of our race venues (Davis Mountains, McKinney Roughs, Parrie Haynes), we are the only race company to host an event there. The other three locations (Flat Rock Ranch, Muleshoe, Lake Georgetown) all have races other than Spectrum’s, but we feel like our races are differentiated enough to offer the racer a completely different experience (ie. not running as a relay team or in the dark).

For the second half of the interview, I put Jason and Mallory each in sound-proof rooms (not really) to ask them questions and see how their answers matched and how well their could predict each other’s answers.  This is a totally new and original idea and not something I saw on the Game Show Network a few weeks back.

And while it’s not a contest, I’m keeping score anyway!

-Favorite place to run? (Be specific)

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
Wonderland Trail. It’s the only inanimate thing that I think about every day, during every hard training run. River Place Nature Trail. Mallory typically runs early–really early. She feels safe running the roads around River Place until it is light enough to run the trails. She also loves the trails there, understandably. X
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
Barton Creek Wilderness Park. Look it up. Mallory may not know this area by this name, but she’ll have given the same answer. For training: the Greenbelt. I feel like he knows every secret trail out there like the back of his hand. For adventuring: John Muir Trail, the site of our 15 day honeymoon.  +1

Armadillo:  I’ll give credit to Mallory on this one, though she (and most people, including me) doesn’t know the official name.  We’ll all promptly forget the official name immediately after scrolling down.

Mallory, 1up

-Favorite race distance?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
50k or double marathon. I suck at short distance. The longer, the better for us slow-pokes. Trick question! Mallory’s favorite running competition is the Fastest Known Time (FKT) category of racing.
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
50k – it can still be run really fast and can be run relatively often. Probably the Marathon or 50k, two distances he holds a few course records for. Though, he killed it on a 125k course in Canada last year, so maybe longer distances will be his new focus!

Armadillo:  I’m going to give each of them half.  Jason’s is for knowing Mallory’s answer better than Mallory does.  And since Mallory totally tried to claim 3 distances in her answer, she only gets partial credit.  [Note to Mallory:  Make sure to read the rules….which I didn’t send you and am making up as I go.]

Mallory, 1up

-Favorite part of a Spectrum race weekend?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
Hanging up the colorful pennant decorations. To me, it’s the icing on the cake and is a sign that all the important tasks have been checked off. Those colorful little triangles mean “go time”. When the last racer crosses the finish line. That’s moment of race success and the moment everyone, including us, can join the after party and partake in tasty libations! X
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
Same as what I wrote for Mallory. Hopefully, I wasn’t just projecting above! The moment we all sit down around the campfire, crack open a cold Zoe, and get to take a deep breath. That’s when we get to hear the runner’s stories from the race and reflect on what an awesome job this is. +1

Armadillo:  Mallory, 2up!  I almost awarded an extra point for the Zoe mention.  If it had been Greenhouse or Pale Mosaic, I would have.  Future interviewees, take note!

-Least favorite part of a Spectrum race weekend?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
Watching Jason have to unpack the truck. 😂 Packing the moving truck full of race weekend gear. It has always been a logistical challenge for Mallory and, often times, something she has to do alone because I was always working my 9-5. X
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
Unpacking the moving truck at the end of the weekend. Unpacking the moving truck. It’s kind of like putting away Christmas decorations, except much smellier and stickier. +1

Armadillo:  Jason’s prediction for Mallory sounds way harder than just watching.  Jason pulls a point back here.

Mallory, 1up

-Favorite Vagabond course?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
River Place. It’s where Vagabond all began. Lots of memories of seeing people flying up that trail and hearing stories of how much they loved this race concept. River Place will always be thought of as Vagabond’s First Go, to us.


Hill of Life 10K, because our Vagabond runner demolished Lance Armstrong’s record on that Strava segment! X
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
River Place. It’s fun, it’s a point-to-point like a legitimate time trial, and I momentarily held the CR after Vagabond. Dump Truck Loop. It short, technical, and had a massive, stranded dump truck at the turn around point. X

Armadillo:  Wrong!  The correct answer was For the Love of Cupid.  It had meticulously detailed instructions that many of us (okay, me) still found ways to mess up, flour marking from trail marking legend Thomas Orf, a piece of familiar trail, a crazy hilly loop and a seldom used offshoot.

Mallory, 1up

-Favorite Spectrum race swag?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
Wonderland aluminum mug because you have to pick it up from our Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Aid Station and run the last 0.1 miles of the race with it in your hand. Bonus points for taking a Fireball shot from it before sprinting to the finish 🙂 Sky Island trucker hats. Mallory loves design work; especially, clothing design work. She and Allison Macsas worked to together to create the first year’s trucker hat and it was a huge hit. X
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
Sky Island trucker hats. They are really cool and actually quite useful which means people will actually where them and talk about the race. Sky Island hat. It was the first swag that we only gave to those who crossed the finish line: a trend we have tried to continue.  +1

Armadillo:  Jason pulls even.  I love those Sky Island hats, but I haven’t seen the Wonderland mugs yet.  I’d also put up the Vagabond steins (pictured below) up for consideration.

Vagabond stein, big enough to fit 3 bananas

All Square

-Favorite Spectrum race?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
The Circus. It’s one big, crazy, seemingly chaotic production. But it is absolutely one of a kind with acrobats and a live DJ at the finish line. The Circus! This is Mallory’s genius and creativity at its best…all kinds of fun and games and Mallory’s family turns out in force. It’s like our new family reunion tradition.  +1
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
Sky Island. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to run and race. And it’s the best material contribution I’ve made to Spectrum’s growth. Sky Island. It’s really Jason’s brilliance and persistence that are responsible for making that race happen.  +1

Armadillo:  Jason & Mallory both totally nailed these here.  Sky Island was already on my list, but the Circus may have to join it.

All Square

-Favorite non-Spectrum race?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
Pikes Peak. I had previously only ever been a rock climber, and Pikes was my first trail race. First race of any kind, actually. And I completely fell in love. The Dipsea Race. Mallory raves about this race at least once every year! We’ll have to go again soon. X
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
Angel’s Staircase 60k. This is a beautiful hidden gym on the eastern slope of Washington’s North Cascade mountains put on by Rainshadow Running. Angel’s Staircase. It’s a Washington race, put on by our friends at Rainshadow Running.  It’s incredibly difficult, with staggering views of the Cascades. I think it’s the first race Jason ran as a dad. +1

Armadillo:  Mallory takes the lead.  I saw a video during the Trail Running Film Festival a few years back of Angel’s Staircase and it was one the races that briefly made me want to consider doing an ultra.

Mallory, 1up

-Top undone bucket list race?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
Gorge 50k and I’d love to go back to Marin County to do the Dipsea, the double this time. We’ve never talked about this topic. I’ve got nothing. X
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
Mine is to run UTMB and climb Mt. Blanc in the same trip! Squamish 50 mile…or maybe Orcas Island?? I think a part of him misses the Pacific Northwest, but I’m not sure he will admit it. X

Armadillo:  Another 0-fer.  If Sam has the comment section working, please submit your own top undone bucket list race and we’ll start a regular weekly segment on those going forward.  Or Sam will, anyway.  This is my last week filling in, so anything else anyone wants Sam to start doing, put it in the comments (Katara—this applies to you, too!).

Mallory, 1up

-#1 must have running item (other than shoes)?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
Goodr sunglasses – hot pink, please After water (which is a given) Mallory has to have a pair of sunglasses.  +1
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
After water, a hat! I have to hold the sweat back!! Ziploc bag with toilet paper. I always find this crucial combo stuffed into little pockets, and I typically use it for a runny nose or cleaning a wound…and then forget to replace it. He must curse my name when it’s time to poop on the trail. Doh! X

Armadillo:  Jason, with the 9th inning rally to tie it up.  I do love me some goodr sunglasses, though I’m always a tiny bit ashamed when I try to match my pair up with the running shirt I have on.

All square

That means that we’re on to a bonus question to determine the winner.

-Favorite offspring?

Mallory’s answer Jason’s prediction Points
Paxoderm I’m pretty sure it’s Paxton.  +1
Jason’s answer Mallory’s prediction
Yeah, Paxton! The Paxosaurus +1

Armadillo:  Okay, that really didn’t decide anything, did it?  Other than show off Mallory’s A+ nicknames for Paxton, anyway.  So, after all that, the rules declare that I get to decide the winner.

And the winner is…..Paxton Brooks!  Pax, I’ll buy you an extra-large dirt worm shake the next time I see you at Hat Creek.  But overall, that is 11 points for Team Brooks!  Setting the bar high for the next pair.

Guest Editor’s Soapbox:  Running with Headphones

Many thanks to all 6 of you who voted last week in the poll about running with headphones.  I gave up my headphones a few years back after local runner Scott Birk was hit and killed while out for a run.  I have no idea if he was wearing headphones or not.  But as a new dad at the time, it shook me and I decided I needed to focus on being safe when out in traffic.  As much as I love music and running with music (I had Nike’s first running mp3 player, which held about 15 songs), I limited myself to only wearing headphones when at Town Lake.  I get that some people can’t run without them and that’s their choice.  It’s just a lot safer when you can hear what is going on around you.  So no headphones when out on the road for me.  Period.

I was also someone who didn’t wear them when out in the greenbelt and on trails.  Part of it was awareness and part of it was just the whole vibe of trail running.  But as I found options that play music and allow ambient sound into your ear as well, I decided it was okay to wear out on the greenbelt as long as I wasn’t isolating myself from nature as I passed through.  I’m not a purist about trail running and for me, music doesn’t corrupt or devalue the trail experience as long as I’m still engaged with what is going on around me.

Music helps make runs go by faster, though not as fast as good conversation.  After all that, I’d gladly take a running buddy out there over headphones.  And that’s all I’ve got to say about that other than that I listen to songs that I could never admit to listening to and retain any shred of hipster music snob credibility.

Interesting News & Articles

Commemorating a Warriors NBA title via Strava.  I think the logistics of such a task are far more impressive than the mileage involved.  I’m only mildly certain that this wasn’t done by Sam.

Interesting interview on male eating disorders.  Really important to shed light on this and get everyone thinking about this as an issue that affects men as well.  As runners, we need to be extra vigilant about these signs.

Rodale for sale, parent of Runner’s World, the top-selling running magazine.  Media in general and print media in particular at a crossroads.  It’s been a while since I’ve subscribed.  There is good stuff in there, but to me it seemed like there were certain articles that repeat about every 18 months.

There is a new race in town:  The Austin Mile Challenge.  Austin has been missing a big mile race ever since the Congress Avenue Mile ceased to be.  This race looks to fill that void and on top of that, looks to raise money to refurbish and update the Austin High Track, which every Austin runner has  probably circled at least once.

This was a simple and interesting article about training as a masters runner.  A lot of us forget that the days in a training cycle really is variable and doesn’t need to be controlled by the Romans and their Julian calendar.

I’m not going to make the obvious reference here.  But a scion of a famous rock and roll family is a pretty good runner.  I’m not sure he could have beaten Joe Strummer, though.

Thanks for reading the Interval and making it all the way to the end this week.  I really enjoyed filling in for Sam while he’s away, though I think after the lead to this post, it’s probably the last time he’ll ever let me do it.  I do still have his passwords, though.

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