The Interval, 9/13/17

The start of the Zilker Relays. Photo from the Zilker Relays Facebook page.

The Interval is especially long this week, so keep scrolling…

Before I get to the local news, I should thank Andy Bitner for writing The Interval last week.  I really enjoyed Catherine Barrera’s article.  Now that I’m back from vacation, Andy is once again able to spend all his free time sculpting:

Zilker Relays

The start of the fall road racing season in Austin is always the Zilker Relays.  This year nearly 300 teams competed on the 4×2.5 mile course around the great lawn at Zilker.  The weather was unusually nice for this race, clear and dry, so the runners who have been doing speed work over the summer had no excuses.

The open division men’s and women’s races were fast, with the top men’s team averaging 5:01 pace and the top women’s team at 6:21 pace.  RunLab (Will Nation, Mark Pinales, JT Sullivan, and Adam Waldum) won the men’s race, followed by The Loop and Tumagu 1.  The women’s race was won by The Loop (Jennifer Angles, Pam Hess, Sarah Madebach, Hannah Steffan), with Moonshine and Hauling Assets also placing.

Will Nation from the RunLab team sent along his race report:

The Zilker Relays is one of the events I look forward to the most every year… What really makes it unique to me is that you get to see almost all the local running groups come together and compete for the top team in town. It also showcases just how great the running scene is here in Austin.

This was my third year running Zilker Relays, all of which with the RunLab Elite team, and I have to say this was the best one yet! The weather was much cooler than it has been in years past, and I really liked that they used chip timing for this year’s race. And perhaps my favorite part, as per usual, were the post-race beer and tacos!

A big hats off to everyone who helped put together the event this year.  I’m already looking forward to the 2018 edition!

The winning women’s team and the second place men’s team (David Fuentes, Erik Stanley, Bryan Morton, Logan Sloan) were both sponsored by The Loop, a running apparel store that will open this fall near the Seaholm development.  Pam Hess, co-founder of The Loop, was part of the winning women’s team and she answered a couple questions by email:

Armadillo Running:  The 2 teams from The Loop did so well, tell us about running your leg and watching your teammates.

Pam Hess:  So proud of both teams! I personally didn’t do exactly what I wanted to – that morning I drove to Dallas and back so my legs were pretty stiff going into it. With that said, whether your legs are fresh or tired, racing is great practice no matter what and the fact that Zilker Relays is so fun is a huge bonus. The women went out there and crushed it despite having little to no warm up in us. There was a mixup in the men’s relay of who was running the second leg which caused for a set back, but they still ran so fast, all things considered. Both teams went out and gave it their all and everyone had fun. Other than social media posts, Zilker Relays was really our first debut in the community. It was a really cool moment seeing The Loop race singlets circling the park.

AR:  You’ve been part of the Austin running community for a long time.  What do you like about the Zilker Relays?

Pam Hess:  Zilker Relays is the perfect balance of fun and competition that unites the Austin community of runners. The course alone is one we are all too familiar with. We know it from workouts, festivals, or where we go to let our dogs run around and play. Zilker park brings us together and the fact that you throw food, beer, and running on top of that is an added bonus.

AR:  How did The Loop teams do in the taco-eating, beer-drinking, and dancing competitions?

Pam Hess:  I know The Loop teams did really well in the taco-eating and beer drinking. I think we were so busy socializing and celebrating our win that we missed the dancing competitions. We will be ready next year though!!

The Loop women’s team: Pam Hess, Hannah Steffan, Sarah Madebach, Jennifer Angles. Photo courtesy of Austin Kilcullen.

The Open Mixed division was also fast, with the RAW team (including recent interviewee Cate Barrett) winning at 5:43 pace.  Second place went to Tronkys Eat Tacos (featuring Carmen Troncoso and Mike Kurvach) at 5:50 pace.  Another RunLab team was third, at 5:56 pace.

The full results, including the Masters and Senior divisions, are here.

Thanks to our Special Correspondent, Amy Baker, who was at the Zilker Relays and secured the interviews with Will and Pam.  Amy is a coach at Rogue and she was cheering for her 4 “Killer B’s” teams, all of which did well.

Brain Power 5K/10K

The Brain Power 5K/10K was on Sunday and I emailed about it with Race Director Mercedes Orton. She provided the following race summary:

The 7th Annual Brain Power 5K, 10K, Survivor Stride & Kids Run was presented by Baylor Scott & White Health on Sunday, September 10, 2017. It was another massive success and step forward in finding a way to end brain cancer and brain tumors. We raised almost $60,000 and counting for brain cancer research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and local efforts for survivors. We proudly had over 60 brain tumor and brain cancer survivors registered for the event and almost 100 in attendance at our powerful pre-race Survivor Stride. Top sponsors included our presenting sponsor Baylor Scott & White Health, our AmeriBrain sponsor MD Anderson Cancer Center, our Survivor Stride sponsor Koko FitClub, our kids run sponsor Ready to Run, as well as Novocure, and the Khudairi Group. It was a perfect fall day for running and walking our flat, fast out and back course at the beautiful H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. We are grateful to our community for the amazing show of support with over 1,500 registered participants.

Congratulations to Mercedes and her team!  The 10K winners were Peter Huff in 40:20 and Lisa Feller in 46:22.  The 5K winners were Jorge Gutierrez in 17:20 and Kate Gurfein in 20:59.  Full results are here.


Local trail runners weren’t left out this weekend, with the Tejas Trails Paleface event on Saturday, out at Pace Bend in Spicewood.  Runners could choose between 4 distances from 5K to marathon, all on the rolling, twisty trails with great views of Lake Travis.  I’ll just list the event winners, full results are here.

Rob Van Houten 21:10
Victoria Ramirez 28:52
Alex Castelan 39:33
Kirsten Betterton 49:40
Half Marathon
David Zuniga 1:34
Shae Vaughan 1:58
Wade Barrett 3:21
Maria Sylte 3:55


Away from Austin, we had some flatlanders challenging the mountains.  In Steamboat Springs, CO, Nick Ackermann finished the Run Rabbit Run 100 miler in 31:41.

At the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run Katie Graff and David Iler both finished the 205 mile course around the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Michelle Ryan ran UTMB last week and we emailed about the event:

Armadillo Running:  UTMB is a whole week of events, described by some as the Super Bowl of trail running.  What were your impressions?

Michelle Ryan:  Yes, as soon as you arrived in Chamonix it felt grand. I’ve been to a few world championship races, and the week of events leading up to UTMB was much bigger. The organization was very professional and the entire town was supportive and involved. All of the runners looked like world class athletes. Pros everywhere, I remember walking through town and seeing people like Zach Miller, Dylan Bowman and Sally McRae. The race itself was so well thought out and organized, there was no detail ignored.

AR:  How did your race go?  Did you have problems with the weather?

Michelle Ryan:  I was relatively happy with my race. I didn’t have any stomach issues, never bonked and my legs were strong. What surprised me the most is that I was never sleepy. The race started at 6PM on Friday and I didn’t finish till Sunday afternoon. I’d never raced through 2 nights before, so I was worried about sleep deprivation. To my surprise it was never an issue. I never took a nap. Didn’t need to. Eventually, I did have to manage a massive amount of pain as the endless climbing (+32,000ft.) took it’s toll on my legs. My quads were so trashed that I struggled with the downhill sections. However, the last mile is back in the town of Chamonix through a gauntlet of people cheering you to the finish. That was glorious, and a memory I will cherish forever.

The conditions were extremely demanding this year. There was heavy rain the day before the race, making 90% of the course a muddy mess. During the race we encountered rain, sleet, snow and even blizzard conditions on 2 high mountain passes. We all slipped and fell a lot. There was so much mud and rain that my feet were always wet. They were pretty torn up and painful towards the end. I didn’t mind the cold, but I did struggle in the blizzard sections. I hit both those sections in the dark. The wind was so fierce that the snow blinded me to the point that I could not see the trail very well. I had to wait for others to come along so that I could follow them. We formed a chain and stayed together, but it was like the blind leading the blind. Once I got through that, everything else seemed manageable by comparison. I think my perception of “hard” has been raised a notch or two!

Congratulations to Michelle on an epic race.

Ivi at the Tallin Marathon

My good friend Ivi Kerrigan traveled to Estonia, the country of her birth, to run in the Tallin Marathon.  Here is her report:

The race had 2166 participants from 56 different countries. I did not bother to check out the race course in advance since I knew the city very well. I wish I had, the last 2.5 miles was uphill and that basically killed me. I was on 7:25-7:35 pace till 24 miles and then it had the gradual uphill and I ended up with 3:18:36. That was good enough for the 15th overall female and second in my age group.

Other than that race was very laid back, the running corrals opened up 15 minutes before the start. No national anthem, just few group waves and a countdown from 10 seconds to go.  The race itself circled around the city several times with a few up and downhills. Then we went out to the sea and back and got some headwind at some point. The end was back in the city. It was a shame that there were very few spectators out in the morning (the race started 9 am local time) so basically no crowd support.

The finish line was the best, I got a heavy bag full of goodies plus the finishers tent had unlimited beer, local pastries, 2 different soups, salads, yogurts- you name it.

There was also a Guinness record broken- a guy dribbled 2 basketballs the entire time and finished sub 3:45.

Ivi at the finish with her hardware. Photo from Ivi.

Thanks and congratulations to Ivi!

Austin Marathon Course

And the last item for the local news is that the course for the 2018 Austin Marathon has been announced.  Check their website here.  The changes are quite dramatic, with the last third of the course on the East Side, which should be fun and encourage spectator support.  When I was running road marathons I avoided Austin because I was trying to get a fast time and it wasn’t a fast course.  It appears that the new course won’t be any faster.  Here is how Rogue Running coach Chris McClung described the new course on the Rogue Facebook page:

“I can’t sugar coat it. This course is tougher than the one before with an additional ~300 feet of cumulative elevation gain across the 26.2 miles, adding 40% more climbing. Yes, people will be excited to see certain sections go away like the rolling hills of Exposition or the mind bending false flats of Great Northern. But, those sections are replaced by new areas that are even more challenging such as the big climb on Enfield/15th into downtown and a nasty little double hill on Dean Keaton heading toward the east side. Plus, the infamous San Jacinto hill at the end is now replaced by the even-more-infamous 11th Street climb to the Capitol which boasts 5-9% grades, making for perhaps the toughest finish in all of big-city marathoning.”

Running News

The big news in racing was Jociline Jepkosgei’s new world record in the 10K road race.  She set this record in the Prague Grand Prix 10K, running 29:43. Jepkosgei held the previous record of 30:03, set during the Prague Half Marathon this spring, in which she also set world road race records for the 15K, 20K, and half marathon.  Coverage by Let’s Run.

I had fun watching the 5th Avenue Mile coverage on Sunday.  Both the men’s and women’s races were close and exciting.  Nick Willis won the men’s race in 3:51, with a late burst from a big pack.  Jenny Simpson, fresh off her 1500 world championship title, won the women’s race for the sixth time, in 4:16. Coverage by Let’s Run.

Another road race with a repeat winner was the Great North Run, a half marathon in northern England, near Newcastle.  Sir Mo Farah won for the fourth time in 1:00:06, just a few seconds ahead of Jake Robertson.  Mary Keitany won the women’s race in 1:05:59.  Farah announced after the race that he’ll run the London Marathon next spring.  Coverage from The Guardian.

The Berlin Marathon is 2 weekends from now and it sounds like we have a good shot at a new world record.  Eliud Kipchoge will headline a fast field as they try to win and get below 2:02:57.  Coverage by Runner’s World.

In my continuing quest to get Dan Hannon on Strava, here is an excellent article from Men’s Journal on the history of Strava and the reasons behind its success.

The biggest ultra of the summer, UTMB, was a couple weekends ago, so I won’t spend a lot of time on the topic.  The men’s race was exciting, with lots of action from what some called the strongest ever field for an ultra.  Francois D’Haene was the winner, just 15 minutes ahead of Hardrock 100 winner and extraterrestrial Kilian Jornet.  Check out coverage from iRunFar and Trail Runner.  Jim Walmsley led early in the race but flamed out about 2/3 of the way, in similar fashion to the last 2 Western States 100 races.  This time, he was able to figure out a way to recover and continue racing, finishing in 5th.  If Walmsley can match his talent and drive with tactics, he’ll be unstoppable at any trail distance.  Check out this great interview by iRunFar.

Upcoming Races

The CASA Superhero Run is this Sunday, up at the Domain.  You can test out your Halloween costume in a 5K and donate to a great cause.

I’ll be driving out to Fort Davis in west Texas for the second running of the Sky Island Trail Race.  The crew at Spectrum Trail Racing have sold out the 25K and 50K races, so it should be a fun and competitive morning on Saturday, followed by more fun as we all relax in the beautiful Davis Mountains State Park.

Response to Harvey

I’ve been impressed by the response of the Austin running community to Harvey.  The running stores (Rogue, Ready to Run, Austin Trail Running) have all organized donations and/or supply runs to Houston.  The training group I run with, TrailRoots, has set up a donation page with Convoy of Hope.  This group has already served over 183,000 people in southeast Texas.  Please donate your time or money to these efforts, or to the Red Cross.