The Interval, 8/16/17

Ricardo Troncoso (#447) at the Masters XC Championships in Spokane.  Photo courtesy of Carmen Troncoso.
Carmen Troncoso at the Masters XC Championships in Finland.  Photo courtesy of Carmen Troncoso.

First off, some updates on flatlanders performing incredible feats in the mountains:

Allison Macsas and Mallory Brooks have set a new FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Wonderland Trail.  They completed the 93 mile loop around Mt. Rainier in 29 hours and 12 minutes, about 2 hours better than the previous record for a women’s unsupported FKT.  Coverage from Pam LeBlanc for Austin360 and Competitor.  (Hat tip to Ed Remaley)

Katie Graff finished her first of three 200 mile races in 3 months.  Like Allison and Mallory, Katie was also in the Cascade mountains of Washington.  Katie ran the BigFoot200, actually 206.5 miles, that included over 50,000 feet of climbing. She finished in 3 days and 10 hours, good for fifth place in the women’s race. Next for her is the Tahoe200 starting on September 8.

Team Tronky Interview

This week we’ve got another installation of the Armadillo version of The Newlywed Game, which is what we’re calling this until I come up with something better.  Naming suggestions are welcome.  And it is a special one, as the Armadillo convinced Austin legends Carmen and Ricardo Troncoso to give it a go.  Carmen and Ricardo, aka Team Tronky, have been pillars of the Austin running community since moving here in 1983.  Please get out your protractors and slide rules and keep up with the scoring system.  Here goes:

 1.  Favorite Austin race?

Carmen:  Since we are old people it is hard to narrow it down to one race, and when you love running and racing it is even harder, but here are some that I remember fondly, from the old days (pre-2000?).

My favorite one was EASTER SEALS 5K, you ask anybody that was racing in Austin back in the 90’s and I bet they will name this race as one of their favorites.

This race started at 38th on the access road of Mo-Pac, and we ran South on Mo-Pac (YES! Mo-Pac) to exit at LAB and finish by the Austin High School.

Another one was, the DECKER CHALLENGE (precursor of the Decker half) which was a random 11.2 miles OR the Double Decker that was 22.4.

In the last decade, my favorite races are probably RFW either 10M or 5K…I like races with accurate markers (I have been known to complain about that. I don’t care for GPS “measurements”), well ran and nice after race festivities. Not too crowded.

And Zilker Relays for the friendly family atmosphere – plus it is a night race. LOVE night races.


Ricardo:  Without a doubt the now-defunct Donkey Dash 5k. A low-key race on a well-marked and fair course, and of a manageable size so that you could actually find yourself running within the first 20 meters.

Most other Austin races have become more of a community event or parade. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man (which I am), most Austin races are no longer focused on the competition at the front (or even in the age groups), but rather in the communal aspect – which definitely has value.


Carmen:  My guesses for Ricardo will be “Congress Avenue Mile” for pre-2000 and “Donkey Dash 5k” (RIP) for recent races. But he is more of a “track runner”.


Ricardo:  For Carmen, I would say that her favorite Austin race is also a thing of the past, possibly the Sundown 10k that used to be run in the Circle C neighborhood. If it’s not that one, then the (also defunct) Easter Seals 5k. One year she ran the third fastest time in the world for a road 5k (15:19), even though the course was considered to be aided due to being point-to-point and mostly downhill.


The Armadillo:  +1 to both Carmen and Ricardo.  I think racers have different views that recreational runners on what they’re looking for, but what I pulled from Carmen’s response was that Austin needs some variety in our road races like some weird distances or running on highways.

2.  Favorite non-Austin race?

Carmen:  Any XC Championship race.  Location changes every year.  I like XC races the most – all my most memorable races are XC. You get the “worst weather possible” 8 times out of 10.

Courses are hard, but not so hard that you can’t race. And the distances are short enough to actually race.

Think rain falling horizontally, freezing…course already muddy. Probably in the 30’s I don’t remember. That was in Belfast. I remember every detail.  But then again I do remember each race as its own adventure.

Ricardo:  Without a doubt the Carlsbad 5k. Truly a world-class event both in the quality of the elite fields, as in the participation by the masses, the competitive age-groups, and the fact that they are able to launch six 5k races within 6 hours –typically without a hitch.


Carmen:  My guess for Ricardo is Carlsbad 5k.



Ricardo:  Carmen’s favorite non-Austin race is without doubt the annual National Cross Country Championships – which vary location from year to year. If I were to choose which one of the courses is her favorite, I would have to say either the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, or Franklin Park in Boston. She has had superb races at both courses over the past 30-plus years.

The Armadillo:  +1 for each of them again.  I’m beginning to think that Team Tronky is going to set the CR for this game.

I’ve run Carlsbad and it’s a great race and fun event.  It also fits well with Ricardo’s previous answer as it is a racer’s race.  As a bonus, you also get to watch that elite race after the other heats are completed.  As for horizontal, freezing rain?  That sounds fantastic compared to today’s heat index of 110.

3.  Favorite place to run in Austin?

Carmen:  At the moment I like Mary Moore Searight Park.  Greenbelt like trail, long enough for me.  I also love the old Shoal Creek trail/Peace Park route. Ricardo:  Mary Moore Park near our house is definitely the best. It has several miles of trails that allow you to forget that you are actually still in the city, plus an asphalt trail that is great for timed workouts, and also access to a track that allows us to combine trail and track running.
Carmen:  My pick for Ricardo…will also be Mary Moore park…or hilly routes in the neighborhood. Ricardo:  I would bet it is Carmen’s favorite too, as she runs there at least once (sometimes twice) a week.

The Armadillo:  Best get used to this answer, but +1 for both of them.  And to think Carmen was concerned about how well they’d do.  I’ll agree on Mary Moore Searight Park.  A bit of a challenge for a lot to people to get to, but it’s an enjoyable spot for a hard greenbelt-like workout.

4.  Favorite non-running place in Austin?

Carmen:  Hard to choose, I love Austin for the arts, the food, the parks and the total feel…so I will say that every place is my favorite but “Home and my studio are high on the list”.

But if I HAD to pick one PLACE it would be Laguna Gloria for the peaceful setting…if it had a coffee place it would be heaven.

Ricardo:  Without a question, my home. I just love being home.

If we exclude home, then that section of north Lamar between 15th and 29th street has always held some kind of magic for me. When Carmen and I moved to Austin in 1983, I remember driving along that stretch and thinking that it was so nice and peaceful, with the park on the west side and Lamar just kind of winding back and forth parallel to the Shoal Creek.

Carmen:  Ricardo’s pick I think will be HOME. Ricardo:  I would bet that Carmen’s favorite place is also home. But she also loves some of the artsy spots and funky coffee shops around town. Probably not a single favorite one, but an overall appreciation for what they all offer when you put them all together.

The Armadillo:  I’m going to give Carmen a +1 here, so she pulls into the lead.  Harsh grading curve after the first three answers!

5.  Favorite place to run that isn’t in Austin?

Carmen:  Leif Erickson Trail in Portland and Joe Ranger trail in Vermont and for out of the country places I think I would pick “CERRO SAN CRISTOBAL” in Santiago Chile or Chipinque and El Pinar in Monterrey Mexico…first place I went running with Ricardo.  He would say “first place I saw Carmen hit the ground, but let’s not get into that”.


Ricardo:  Without a doubt the Erickson Trail in Portland. You can go for miles on a wide fire-truck dirt road, or you can go up the hills through a variety of small trails through the woods. I used to travel up there for work quite a bit, got to know the trails very well. One time it started snowing on me in the middle of the run, and it all looked so bright and magical.

The Metropolitan Park in Santiago, Chile (where I was born) comes a close second. It is a 7k winding climb from the heart of the City to a gigantic statue of the virgin Mary at the top. Stray dogs typically hang around at the entrance to the park and most of the time one or two of them will decide to run with you all the way. They run alongside you as if they were trained for this, never cutting you off, and sometimes speeding ahead to greet other dogs and then coming back to you as if saying to their friends “look, I’ve got me a running partner today”.

Carmen:  My guess for Ricardo – Monterreal in Mexico, Joe Ranger and Leif Erickson trails. Ricardo:  I know that the Erickson trail is also high on Carmen’s list, with honorable mention going to some of the trails near Woodstock Vermont (we have friends in that area), and possibly the trails near our cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

The Armadillo: Let’s see, I’ll give Carmen a half point here, but Ricardo is spot on for the full point.  The Metropolitan Park in Santiago sounds like a reason to visit Chile regardless of what else is there.

6.  Best running advice you’ve ever received?

Carmen:  One thing that comes to mind, is something that I remember Lynn Jennings (if you are a 40+ XC/track person you know who she is) saying when asked how she deals with the weather in races (specifically XC races) and she said, “The first thing I do when I get up on race day is open the curtains, look out and no matter what the weather looks like I tell myself “It’s your kind of weather”. Brilliant and simple. It works for me.

I have placed much higher than I should have in many races just by using that phase, knowing that 50% of the runners were already defeated by the weather before they toed the starting line.

Another quote I always remember is “LACTIC ACID IS YOUR FRIEND”, this one came from one of the runners I was coaching, after a very hard mile workout. He was 60 at the time, made me feel super proud of the fact that I was teaching someone the joy of running fast at any age.

And lastly, I remember track runners always say “you are just as good as your last race.” That kept me in the present and helped me not take things too seriously. Is only running after all.

Ricardo:  The advice wasn’t directed at me, but during my track days I remember seeing an interview with then 800m World Record Holder Sebastian Coe, where they asked him “how do you run a 1:40 800m race?”. “Simple”, he said, “you go out in 50 seconds for the first lap, and hold it”.

Another great line of his was “the most importance distance in any race is the one between your ears”.



Carmen:  Can’t think of anything for Ricardo, except that he likes to say “the most important distance in running is the DISTANCE BETWEEN YOUR EARS”.





Ricardo:  I don’t think Carmen has really ever needed much advice from anyone else when it comes to running. She is the best coach she has ever had, and is able to identify her own strengths and weakness better than anyone could. The one piece of advice I remember giving her was during a very hotly contested cross-country race when she found herself struggling all alone in third place in the middle of the race. I said something like “close the gap now, worry about the consequences later”. She closed the gap and won the race. No other running advice has been necessary.

The Armadillo:  +1 for Carmen here, on a tough question.  My own father, a longtime golf coach, uses that same quote about the distance between one’s ears in relation to playing golf.  I think you can broaden to most any endeavor worth doing, to be honest.  The Armadillo – Come for the running advice, stay for the life coaching!  This question was really just a trick to get Carmen & Ricardo to dispense a few of their running secrets.

7.  Favorite running workout?

Carmen:  The Monster, mostly because when I get to this workout in my training it means that I’m 100% ready to race… (3K, 2k, 3 x 1K, 5 x 400)…ranges from 10K to mile pace. It is tough and I have only done this a few times in my track career, always happened 2-3 weeks before a huge PR. The good old days.

Also love the Cruz workout. Done right is one of the hardest off-season workouts you can do.

And any XC workout.

Ricardo:  Most of my favorite workouts are speed-oriented. There is nothing I like better than doing sets of 300’s with 100m recovery. I find it to be the ideal workout for anything from the 800 to the 5000. You can vary the speed, the number of reps and the speed of the recovery and the workout can be as much a speed workout as an endurance session.

When I was (better) able to train for 10k and even half-marathon, I used to love doing “The Monster”. It is workout we stole from Salvatore Antibo (Olympic silver medalist in the 10k in the 1988 Olympics). It works all the systems and I much enjoyed the fact that Carmen and I could do the workout together –with her setting the pace during the first half of the workout (3k, 2k), and then I would gradually take control as we moved into the 1k’s and 400’s. It is truly a monster of workout.

Carmen:  My guess for Ricardo, might be The Monster also, but I’m going to say “a speed workout” probably. 200’s – 300’s with very short recovery.





Ricardo:  I would bet that the Monster is Carmen’s number 1 pick. It’s workout she would only attempt when approaching peak shape, and it was always a good indicator of her racing fitness.

One workout that Carmen always hated was 1200m reps. Our College coach used to frequently have Carmen do these, and Carmen would give him the evil-eye every time she came around and he yelled out her time.

The Armadillo:  Repeat it with me, dear readers….+1 for both.  I’m sure I’ve done The Monster a couple of times, but I don’t recall Carmen calling it The Monster.  She probably didn’t want to scare us.  I will add that I’m not sure I’ve ever been as sore as the first Cruz workout of the summer.  It helps you remember all of the other muscles that we neglect throughout training.

8.  Favorite running workout name?

Carmen:  Has to be ‘”RUN FROM HELL”… almost impossible to do these days, but it was “from town lake, to Stratford, up Redbud and Westlake Dr. to Bee Caves, to Rollingwood, back to the ROCK.  Done progressively faster was a killer.


Ricardo:  I love the “Bell Circuit”. It consists of three sets of a 10-12 min “power runs” on a hilly course, followed by a hard 800 – 1600m on the track. We stole this one from the 1980’s Alberto Salazar training logs. When we first started doing this workout in 1983 we used to do it at the UT track inside Memorial Stadium, and the run was on the hills around the stadium. The academic building inside the stadium (where Carmen was taking her graduate courses in Exercise Physiology) is called Bellmont Hall, and since that is where we would meet to start the workout, we named it the Bell Circuit.

A lot of running groups have adopted/adapted this workout through word of mouth in the local community, and sometimes we will hear very eloquent explanations as to why it’s called Bell Circuit, such as: “Well the level of effort is such that you spend most of the time at the relatively flat end of a (statistical) bell curve, then you go into the track and get into the steep portion of the curve, and then you exit back out”…..or stuff like that.

Carmen:  My guess for Ricardo will be the same…Run From Hell.






Ricardo:  I expect that the Bell Circuit ranks high on the list of Carmen’s favorite names, but there are others like the “Cruz” (not cruise) workout that we named after Joaquim Cruz, or the “Wheating” which we stole from a workout we saw Andrew Wheating doing in Eugene. And, there is the (in)famous “Run from Hell”, which I named because I was rarely able to complete it without going through my own little hell.

The Armadillo:  I asked this question because both Carmen and Ricardo have a penchant for naming workouts with names that stick.  I hope someday to have a workout named after me, but I’ve noticed that usually coincides with someone blowing up spectacularly during the workout.  So….never mind.  But no points here for the answers.

Also, my car has a hard time doing that Run from Hell workout.  I can’t imagine running it as a progressive down.

9.  Least favorite non-running exercise?

Carmen:  Swimming.



Ricardo:  “Non-running exercise”? I am not aware of any such thing. I once got kicked out of baseball game, where I had been assigned the role of outfielder (or something like that) because I chose to sit on the grass while “absolutely nothing” was going on.
Carmen:  My guess for Ricardo is baseball…He once got kicked out of a game for sitting down in the outfield.


Ricardo:  Carmen hates walking. I’ve never considered it exercise, and neither does she, but she cannot do it. There are times when we will be walking down the street to get somewhere, and other people (who do not appear to be in a rush) will open up half a block on us in a single block.

The Armadillo:  +1 for Carmen.  Baseball is merely an excuse to sit outside and have a beer.

Maybe it is a runner thing about walking, but I am often chastised by my wife for my walking speed being set to “stroll”.

10.  Favorite post-race food?

Carmen:  YES PLEASE…whatever.

Eggs and bacon…and good coffee. Specially with friends.

And, as a post-race event feast…after a 10k in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.   We had a “lobster bake feast”, with views of the ocean, at sunset. And perfect weather.

Ricardo:  French-toast. Nothing like French-toast. And then I wonder why I can’t lose weight?
Carmen:  My guess for Ricardo…French toast Ricardo:  Carmen is definitely and eggs and bacon person.

The Armadillo:  +1 for both…again.  This one seemed like a definitive answer—my experience is that my post-race craving is defined by what I come across during the race or hard workout.  We had one hard workout called Track to Track that involves running from Austin High to Westlake and back (with track workouts at each track stop) that passes Howdy Donut each direction.  You’d better believe I stopped for donuts on the way home after that one.

11.  Favorite running memory?

Carmen:  OMG Andy, 37 years of running and racing is hard to pick…. But my first XC World team in Budapest 1994 was special…after doing my first XC race in 1982 in Mexico, I decided that I liked it, then moved to the USA and went to my first XC Nationals in 1986 where I figured that a team was picked for the World Championships, so I decided that my goal was to get on that team someday…that day was in Feb. 1994…Yes I’m a patient person.

My fastest 5K on the track was also pretty “sweet”.

Now that I’m older, every race I enter and finish strong is a memorable one.

All my running memories are accompanied by the friends that trained with us, raced and traveled with us and celebrated afterwards.  All goes together.


Ricardo:  Strangely enough, my favorite running memories are those where things didn’t turn out that well for me, but that doesn’t make them less memorable. I hope you and your readers will enjoy them:

Running in the mountains outside of Mexico City one day, I stopped to catch my breath and enjoy the view, hyperventilated, passed out, rolled down the hill and hit my head against a rock. Once I came to, I dragged myself to the car, only to get stopped by a cop minutes later who inquired why my head was bleeding.

Running the anchor leg in a road-relay with the College track team, we were so far ahead by the time I got the baton that the lead vehicle decided to drop back with the chase pack. Not knowing exactly which way to go I intuitively navigated in the general direction of where I thought the finish line might be. Once I could see the finish line a few blocks ahead, I could also see the chase pack making a turn towards the finish one block ahead of me, oh well!

Racing my first serious 400m race in College, I was nursing a slightly tight hamstring so the trainer had wrapped an ace-bandage around it (pre-lycra days). Six of us came out of the final turn into the straightaway together, and at that point my bandage came loose, started flapping in the wind, and eventually wrapped itself around my other leg, rendering me immobile.

Carmen:  My guess for Ricardo is his 800 track race in Finland at the World Masters Championships.



Ricardo:  Carmen’s favorite running memory HAS to be her first World Cross Country championships in Budapest. I have on my desk at the office a photo of her after she crossed the finish line –eyes closed, lactic acid coming out of her ears. Beautiful!

The Armadillo:  I’m going to give Ricardo +2 on this one, +1 for nailing Carmen’s answer and +1 for sharing the fantastic running blooper stories.

Bonus questions:

12.  Favorite 42 year old University of Michigan alumnus running client who lives in Austin and occasionally fills in writing a running blog?

Carmen:  That has to be ANDY BITNER. Ricardo:  {No answer}


The Armadillo:  Yay!

13.  Least favorite 42 year old University of Michigan alumnus running client who lives in Austin and occasionally fills in writing a running blog?

Carmen:  William?


Ricardo:  {No answer}


The Armadillo:  Yeah, I don’t like that William guy either.  Never trust anyone who doesn’t go by their first name!

If you’re into scoring, my tally has it at Carmen 8.5, Ricardo 8.  So it’s Carmen as the winner in a photo finish.  And 17.5 points total is definitely a CR—I’ll have to figure out how to make a segment on Strava out of this.  I’d like to thank Carmen and Ricardo for playing along and sharing some fun running memories.  I hope I’m not the only one out there who feels like they should write a book together.

{Andy Bitner, often listed in race results as William Bitner, worked with Carmen and Ricardo on this interview.  Send me a note if you know of other Austin running couples that we should subject to a similar torture.}

Carmen and Ricardo Troncoso at Niagara Falls. Photo courtesy of Carmen Troncoso.

Running News

The track and field world championships ended Sunday in London.  You can catch up on all the results at Lets Run or Flotrack.   I particularly enjoyed this chat between Malcolm Gladwell and Nicholas Thompson on Wired.  The US team did amazingly well, with 30 medals, 13 more than from track and field in the Rio Olympics. The increase may be due to a recent crackdown on doping that resulted in the banning of many athletes from Russia, Kenya, and Jamaica.

I was surprised that Mo Farah lost in the 5K and a bit sad about Usain Bolt coming up injured in the 4×100.  The most exciting race for me was the women’s steeplechase where Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs went 1-2. Both women set new PRs and Coburn’s time is a new US and World Championship record.

UT alum Trey Hardee was doing fine in the decathalon through 6 events, but then had trouble in the 110 meter hurdles and fouled out of the discus.  He withdrew from the remaining events and announced his retirement.  He is a 2-time world champion and won the silver in the 2012 London Olympics.

Kilian Jornet has recovered nicely from the Hardrock 100 last month.  He won his fifth Sierre-Zinal 44K race in the Swiss Alps.  Lucy Wambui Murigi was the women’s winner.  Austinites Amber Reber and David Fuentes also ran in this race.  Coverage by iRunFar.

Interesting Articles

I’ve run in the Greenbelt for hundreds of miles and I still get lost whenever I stray from the superhighway, HOL, or dumptruck.  My advice is to run with someone who really knows the route or bring a good map and your smartphone.  This article has some useful tips on places to access the trails. (Hat tip to Andy Bitner)

This jerk of a runner was seen on camera pushing a pedestrian off the sidewalk and into traffic.  Shocking behavior, I can’t imagine what he was thinking.  He hasn’t yet been captured.  The pedestrian luckily suffered only minor injuries.  (Hat tip to Andy Bitner)

The BBC ran a series of photos of older track and field athletes.  Inspiring and beautiful.  (Hat tip to Jenny Waldron)

Upcoming Races

I’ll be out watching the action on Saturday at the Austin Mile Challenge.  This fund raiser for the Austin High track gets underway at 7am with the first of 8 races.  The elite women’s and men’s races are at 8:30 and 8:45, respectively.

The 100th running of Vern’s No Frills 5K is also on Saturday morning.  Bill Schroeder of No Excuses Running is the ringleader for this event and he’s expecting 400-500 runners.

Another flatlander is headed to the mountains.  Dennis Runyan, a TrailRoots running buddy, will run the Leadville 100 this weekend.  The lowest elevation is 9,200 feet and the highest is 12,600 feet.