The Interval, 10/3/17

Jimmy McWilliams after his third place finish in the 50M race at the J&J Race and Trail Running Reunion. Photo courtesy of Jimmy.

Lots of local races and news this week, keep scrolling, it’s worth it!  I’ll start with the Tejas Trails J&J Race and Running Reunion.  This event includes races with 5 distances from 10K to 100K and is held at Camp Eagle, near Kerrville.  It’s a whole weekend of outdoor fun, with mountain biking, ziplines, swimming, etc.  Nearly 200 people competed in the various races.  I’ll just list out the winners, full results are here.

Rob Van Houton 42:45
Esther Beachy 54:01
Franz Konczak 2:11:05
Gaby Garza 3:04:08
Ryan Hise 5:05:37
Sheila Pinkson 7:32:12
Wade Barrett 8:51:33
Megan Reed 10:57:18
Joe Schmal 12:24:35
Julie Koepke 17:38:31

Jimmy McWilliams finished 3rd in the men’s 50 miler.  He’s a professor in the history department at Texas State San Marcos and an author.  His latest book is Eating Promiscuously: Adventures in the Future of Food.  We emailed about his race:

Armadillo Running:  I heard the course was difficult, muddy after the recent rain.  How does it compare to your other 50 mile races (VT50 in Vermont and Rocky50)?

Jimmy McWilliams:  This was a course—3 loops– that both deserved and rewarded respect. Rocky, hilly, mucky (yes, after 4 days of steady rain), slippery—you’d be an absolute fool not to bow down and show a little deference to the thing. The first five miles, all dark (race started at 5 am), involved a LOT of climbing. “What kind of idiot am I out here doing this stunt?” I thought, with my headlamp strobe-lighting the single-track strip of black gluey mud. But in time the path eases up, and, with a little fear now jangling the nerves, you feel the course begin to relax and present a fuller version of itself: You run on a river bed; you run on a long downward jeep road; you run on a mountain top with views of spring fed pools; you run past a Christian cross (2x) the size of a Manhattan skyscraper (I took a Pascal’s Wager approach to the hulking icon and, not being particularly religious per se, offered a generic Manitou-like prayer-ish howl-chant to honor the owls, snakes, and spiders I kept seeing). The hidden gem of the course came around mile 43, with the hard sun searing my shoulders (and, in due time, my soul): Wedged between a slope in the aforementioned riverbed rock and an overhanging boulder there was—lo!–a rippling pool of cold spring water. A mirage? Not today. There was only one thing to do under this circumstance. Alone, unhurried, I stripped down to a state of nature illegal in the great Texas outdoors and took the sweetest bath a man could reasonably expect to find in the late stage of a long run in the middle of nowhere. Five minutes later, I crawled out from my nook a new man, or at least new man enough to finish up the run.

As far as comparisons to the other 50-milers I’ve attempted go, Vermont50 (which I dropped out of at 47 miles with an ankle the size of a cantaloupe) is sort of an evil twin to J&J—hillier, narrower, and with no sense of humor or unexpected love offerings (a kind of attractive psychopath, if you will). The Rocky 50, by contrast, was a sweetly behaved love child named Sunshine. No cares in the world (by comparison), dedicated to success, and the sort of race you finish by linking arms with fellow runners, singing a happy song at a high octave, and doing a festive little jig as you finish. For this one, the J&J one, you sort of wobble around at the finish and think seriously about quietly assuming the fetal position and, ever so tenderly, weeping for mommy. Tears of joy, of course.

AR:  You got through a tough Austin summer of training, which included a 40 mile day.  Any tips for people training for late summer or early fall ultras?

Jimmy McWilliams:  I don’t think of myself as qualified to offer tips on anything, much less ultra-running, but I’ll tell you what I did and you can smoke it or toss it. Grains of salt should apply in abundance. When I train for these races I aim for a lot of single-day long distance runs. Rather than attempting to become accommodated to rocky terrain, I just go out at 3-4 am and run like a zombie for 30-40 miles on Lake Lady Bird and the mean streets of Austin (in all seriousness, gentle streets– running down the center of Lamar at 4:30 am, not a car in sight, is a rare thrill). I did this at least 5 times, in addition to six runs in the 20-mile range. As a training strategy, this tact is, I am going to guess, the exact opposite of what a trail runner is supposed to do. But I just feel mentally stronger if I know I can get to high mileage without too much existential angst sending me into emotional and physical looney-ville. It also allows me to experiment better with nutrition (for the race it was water, Tailwind, peanut butter sandwiches, Terra bars, Pringles, Fig Newtons, six Advil, a pickle, and a date bar my son made for me). When I trained with a friend for the VT50 a couple of years ago we did the same—lots of distance and very little trail time. I was generally fine with it (okay, yes, I sprained my ankle, but that was a fluke in an otherwise decent experience) but my friend wanted to kill me slowly for not having forced him to do more trails in preparation. So, jeezo-peezo, who knows: I may be especially strange in limiting my trail exposure this way. But another factor is time. It’s just faster getting to high mileage on the street than on trails. In addition to these long runs, plus a 60-80 miles a week for a base, I do some core work and other strengthening exercises at the gym 2-3 times a week for 45-60 minutes. Podcasts get me through it. There is nothing more to say on that. Well, maybe one thing: I really hate to admit it, but squatting and lunging and crunching and all that horrible crap really helps. Took me twenty years to figure that out. Slow runner. Slow learner.

AR:  Third place in the men’s 50 miler!  You were about 5 minutes ahead of the 4th place runner, Nate Smith.  Did you run any miles with him?

Jimmy McWilliams:  Third place might sound impressive—hell, I got a tin cow to remind me of my accomplishment, so yeah. But what’s more impressive was just finishing this beast of a course. The sun scorched us on the last loop, blending with the residual moisture to create a tropical effect. I felt my heart rate go way up (until that godsend of a spring) and sustained the first real sunburn I’ve had since high school. I think a lot of runners simply bowed out of the last loop and found beer and other comforts. I ran the second loop faster than the first and, feeling pretty strong at the end of loop two, decided to push harder on the last loop. I did so until about mile 40. Mile 40-41 was, because I pushed as the heat intensified, an absolute mental and physical meltdown. I reverted to a four-year old. I tottered over every rock I passed and fell three times, once just lying on my back yelling a string of curse words intended to scare off the circling buzzards. It’s a wonder I didn’t soil myself and find a hole to sleep in. But I got up, found a thread of energy, a smidge of dignity, and at mile 46 saw Nate walking in the distance. Walking. I hadn’t seen anyone for so long I felt like asking him to dinner and a movie. But instead I passed him at a plodding pace and he said something like “I’m out of gas,” or “I’m done with this,” or “I’m toasted” and I said something like “grdwrkph” or “doryrbstest” or “congrthshs”—I was trying to say something encouraging but discovered that I had, at this point, transcended literacy and, to boot, was starting to mistake rocks for piglets and trees for strong, bare-chested men. So: to finally answer your question, I did not run with Nate and, I am sure, it is his great good fortune that I didn’t. But, yeah, third place. Third place. Sounds nice to say it.

Congratulations to Jimmy!  He cracks me up whenever we run together and he’s always welcome here at Armadillo Running.

Another trail race this weekend was the fifth annual Dare to Ascend Trail Run, with a 5K, half marathon, and marathon on the Goodwater trail around Lake Georgetown.  The 5K women’s and overall winner was Juliana Lozano, age 13, in a time of 27:34.  Caleb Roberts was the men’s winner in 27:55.  The half marathon men’s winner was Brian Slaughter in 1:56 and the women’s winner was Shae Vaughn, in the same time.  The women’s marathon was Shellie Oroshiba in 6:03.  My TrailRoots running buddy Matt Fletcher won the men’s marathon with a fast 4:03 on the often technical Goodwater trail.  Matt emailed me his thoughts on the win:

I’ve been attracted to the Goodwater loop since before I could even run a marathon, the tantalizing array of terrain from hilly skull rock threatening to maim you to the rolling fields of grassy double track that always seems to greet you with a sun rising over the lake (run it clockwise always!) and challenging logistics when going full loop on unsupported training or fun runs.  So I’ve watched the calendar for races up there for years and had my eye on Dare to Ascend’s small charity race, but it always conflicted until last year when I was injured and couldn’t run it so volunteered instead, and met the team who are super cool and devoted to a well run race. This year was finally a real chance to race it, but I couldn’t afford to let up on my CIM training so I didn’t taper for it which worried me enough to go out pretty conservatively.  I just ran my pace with the goal really to just be under 4 hours, but I was surprised to be holding 2nd place early.  I started to think I might podium if the rest of the really fast dudes didn’t show up today, so held a steady burn to keep 3rd behind me.  At the mile 21 aid station they clocked the leader 7 mins ahead but said he’d been cramping. I went out still really just speeding up on the nice runnable section between Tejas and Russell to defend 2nd place not hoping to win, but when I saw him leaving the mile 25 aid station I knew he was hurting having lost a 6.5 minute lead in 4 miles, so I went for it and found him on the last section of technical rocky uphill, rubbing a leg cramp, and I ran by with a well-wish for feeling better.  I was really still just trying not to blow the lead by getting too comfy until the last 1/4 mile when I realized I could actually win, something I’ve never experienced, and went hard anaerobic to make sure the imagined racer on my tail wouldn’t take away this unbelievable experience and the trail opened to the parking lot and I crossed the line as the winner 4 minutes ahead of 2nd place.  3rd, who I imagined gunning for me the whole time, was nearly an hour back, but he served me well!  In the end I fully recognize this was a textbook case of who shows up on race day as a 4:03 even on a course with plenty of mud isn’t a great time (would have got 4th last year), but I sure had a blast racing for a win out there after running a pretty well-managed race to give me the legs to dial in a decent closing pace.  The race has had a good showing from my TrailRoots buddies, as Billy Satterwhite won a couple years ago and Jordan Vonderhaar was top-5 last year.  I recommend the race as a great chance to run hard out there supported and get some motivation from the field!  Small races can offer big prizes if you show up to fight for them!  I’m still finding it hard to think of myself as a race winner but imagine I’ll get used to it…

Congratulations to Matt!  You can only beat the people that show up.  Full results are here.

Fred Riethmiller at an aid station during The Bear 100. Nice hat!  Photo from Fred.

Just one entry this week for Flatlanders Doin’ Werk.  Fred Riethmiller finished The Bear 100, a 100 mile race from Logan Utah to Bear Lake Idaho with over 22,000 feet of climbing.  Fred ran the race last year, but, due to lots of snow, the point-to-point course was changed to an out and back.  Fred sent me his short review:

The 2017 Bear had beautiful weather on day one.  Day two was more like last year – cold, wet, muddy and miserable.  The first day of the race (Friday) was an absolutely beautiful day with plenty of sunshine.  The trail was actually a little wet in places due to recent rains but very runnable.  That night was a bit of a bone chiller, though.  I witnessed several DNFs in the middle of night due to temp in the low 30s.  The predicted rains came around 9am on Saturday, which turned a lot of the exposed downhill sections into a muddy affair.  I’m always amazed that one can slip and fall with two feet and two poles jammed into the ground.  Having now experienced the ‘full’ Bear, I can say this is an extremely demanding, unforgiving course.  There a reason it’s a Hardrock qualifier.

Coverage of The Bear 100 from iRunFar.

Shellon McCallie, Mandy Plante, Carmen Troncoso, and Cassie Henkiel of Team Rogue at the USATF Masters 5K Championships. Photo courtesy of Carmen.

Carmen Troncoso and a few of her Team Tronky (Rogue) runners went up to Syracuse NY for the USATF Masters National 5K Championships at the Syracuse Festival of Races.  They all did amazingly well.  Cassie Henkiel ran 18:09, good for third place.  Carmen ran 19:47, 16th place and first in her 50-59 age group.  Mandy Plante was 20th in 20:08.  Shellon McCallie was 73rd in 24:13.  They placed third in the team competition.

Full results are here.

Carmen emailed me a few of the highlights from the event, the last year at this venue for the USATF 5K Masters:

  • The overall winner, Kevin Castille, posted a world record in the 45-49 AG  with a 14:29 (not a typo)
  • Roy Englent, age 95 (also not a typo) ran 40:52.  Also an AG record
  • Sabra Harvey, age 68, ran 20:44
  • Jan Holmquist, age 73, ran 22:27

The only race in Austin from the last week that I’ll mention is the USA Aquathlon National Championships.  This was held Sunday morning in and around the quarry lake at Pure Austin.  The event is a 3K run, a 1K swim, and a 3K run.  My friend Matt Hanlon finished in 42:27, good for 29th place overall and 5th in his 35-39 age group.

Full results are here.

Last item for local news is the sale of the Rogue Running retail store to Jackrabbit.  This group owns 63 stores in 17 states, including the Texas Running Co store in north Austin.  The Rogue training groups are not part of this transaction.  The Statesman has a short article, check with your Rogue contacts for any questions.

Upcoming Races

The first race of the annual Austin Distance Challenge is this Sunday with the fifth annual Run Free Texas 80’s 8K.  This event in Cedar Park is a fundraiser for Run Free Texas, a group that works with at-risk kids by promoting exercise.

I had a good conversation with Iram Leon, the president of the Austin Runner’s Club (ARC), the group that organizes the Distance Challenge.  ARC has been around since 1974 and is the oldest running club in Austin.  They have about 1,000 members and operate 2 of the oldest races in Austin, the 40 year old Daisy 5K and the 39 year old Decker Challenge.  ARC raises money through these races and the Distance Challenge and, as a 100% volunteer organization, donates all of the proceeds to The Trail Foundation and Marathon Kids.  An ARC membership is included with your Distance Challenge entry or is just $30 per year.  ARC organizes lots of free training runs and generally supports the Austin running community.  Membership benefits include discounts at local businesses and on race entries.

Iram and I went through the list of races:

  • Run Free Texas 80’s 8K on October 8
  • Run for the Water 10M on November 5
  • Decker Challenge Half Marathon on December 10
  • 3M Half Marathon on January 21
  • Austin Marathon and Half Marathon on February 18

I’ve finished the full challenge once and “half-track” once and I still wear the prized finisher jackets.  Like last year, the only difference between the full and half-track versions is with the last race:  run the new Austin Marathon course for the full or run the Austin Half Marathon for the half-track.  Iram and I agreed that, of the 3 half marathons, the Decker Challenge is the toughest and rewards the mentally tough runner.  All of the races are expertly managed.  For road racers, the Distance Challenge is a great way to stay motivated and dedicated through the best time of the year to be an Austin runner.

Trail runners will be racing out near Comfort, Texas at the Rawhide event by Spectrum.  These are some of the sweetest trails in the Hill Country, with some rare long stretches of smooth singletrack on the rolling hills of Flat Rock Ranch.  This is the third year of the event and there are 4 distances from 10K to 50M.  I’ll be out of town, otherwise I’d be racing at Rawhide.

Interesting Articles

Check out this great video on the Hardrock 100 race.

I’ve mentioned before that I admire Justin Gatlin.  This article from Esquire has some good insights into his surprising longevity as a sprinter.

My friend Joe Whinery has a big empty van that he’s starting to trick out as a camper.  Here are some good examples of van-life for runners from Trail Runner.

Allie Ostrander, women’s champ of the Mt. Marathon race last July, is showing some promise as a cross country runner for Boise State.

A fond farewell to Alex Hutchinson, the author of Runner’s World Sweet Science column since 2012.  He’s moving on, but he put together a great summary of key issues for his last column:  The Seven Pillars of Running Wisdom.  A great read.