The Interval, 1/31/18

Miguel Montealvo and Andy Bitner near the start of the Goodwater 16 mile race. Photo courtesy of Spectrum and AzulOx.

I joined about 200 trail runners on Saturday for the sold-out Spectrum Trail Racing Goodwater event.  These races are held on the trails around Lake Georgetown, about 30 minutes north of Austin.  The 8 and 16 mile races use a portion of the trail on the north side of the lake while the marathon and double marathon runners go all the way around the lake once or twice.  The conditions were OK, a bit humid with a little rain, but tolerable enough that many new course records were set.

Goodwater route around Lake Georgetown.

There isn’t a lot of climbing, but the course is rarely flat, and has lots of turns.  The main defining feature is the rock.  Josh Beckham told me it is known as karst.  I had been calling it cheese-grater rock, but karst sounds cooler and it has a wikipedia page.  The karst we have in the Hill Country is a type of limestone and, unlike other types, it degrades slowly.  Most of the exposed rock at Goodwater is solid and is eroded into crazy shapes with many sharpish edges.  There are little “gnome-heads” of karst poking up through the leaves all over, just waiting to trip a trail runner with a weak pushoff late in a race.  If you’ve run the Sweet 16 route in the Greenbelt, you’ve run on karst.

I arrived at the start area well after the marathoners and doublers had started, but just in time to see the 16 mile start.  There were lots of people around.  Andy Bitner overheard one spectator talking on her phone:  “I’m up in Georgetown. Pete is going to go run in the woods. There are a lot of people running around in the woods here.”  After the 16 mile runners left I warmed up and then joined the crowd at the start line for the 8 mile race.  I didn’t recognize anyone and spotted only a couple guys who looked “fast.”  I was thinking I might be able to sneak my old self onto the podium when 3 fast Spectrum runners trotted up:  Allen Daniel, JJ Tiscareno, and Brent Katz.  Mallory sent us off.  My first mile was about 7:30, helped out by the first 1/4 mile that wasn’t technical.  I was in 4th, but now the trail was too technical for that pace to be sustainable for me and a couple guys passed me over the next few miles.  I hit the 4 mile u-turn and saw that Brent was close behind me.  I was able to pick up the pace around miles 6 and 7 and passed one runner and I held onto 5th place to the finish, running in fear of Brent catching me.  Sadly, it turned out that he suffered an injury and had to walk it in.  Joshua Monthei won the 8 mile race, in 58:04, a great time on that trail and a course record.  Aubrey Lindberg won the women’s race in 1:21:59.

The 16 mile race was dominated by Josh Beckham, who averaged 7:15 pace to finish in 1:56:34, for a new course record.  Andy Bitner was second, in 2:09:29 and he emailed me this thoughts on the race:

I really enjoyed the course and the variety of terrain—never a dull moment.  Though the mid-race rain shower made the rocks really slick and really slowed down me down the last quarter of the race.  I am looking forward to Jason and Mallory (Spectrum owners) putting together their Weather Dominator to make sure that their next race is completely dry.  Saddle Blazer should be completely dry, right?

As for my race, this was my goal peak race for the winter.  Running 3M all the time got stale, but I got very fit with Carmen’s 3M program, so I tried stepping up in distance (for me) in this race.  I had never run at Lake Georgetown, but based on my fitness and last year’s results, I thought I could do 2:08, which is an 8 minute pace.  I felt great for most of the race until the effort of staying upright on the slick rocks caught up with me in the last few miles, but that’s trail racing.  I briefly felt like I could hang with Josh (okay, very briefly), but on top of just being a faster runner than me, he’s a total trail ninja – I think he even managed to run a negative split on all that.  Really happy with my effort and results.  

The women’s 16 mile winner was Esther Erbe in 2:34:06, also a course record.

Jonathan Garner running the marathon at Goodwater. Photo courtesy of Spectrum and AzulOx.

Ashtyn Johnson won the women’s marathon in 4:46:45.  The men’s race was won by Jasen Ritter in 3:31:14, a new course record.  Second place went to Jonathan Garner, who I emailed with about his race:

Armadillo Running:  The trail for the 8 and 16 mile races was quite technical.  You and the other marathoners ran all the way around Lake Georgetown, what was the rest of the course like?

Jonathan Garner:  The course is absolutely beautiful, definitely worth the drive from Austin! After the 8 mile turnaround point, you get a brief reprieve from the technical trail as you run across the dam, but then once you enter Cedar Breaks trailhead you’re thrown into another 9ish miles of demanding technical trail that’s on par or possibly worse in sections than the first eight miles. Part of this section takes you in and out of the low water lake draws, which on a morning like Saturday were exceptionally beautiful and eerie with all the fog. Once you make your way up and over the big stair climb at mile 18.5, you run on some pretty flat and smooth grassland areas for the remainder of the race. It’s a nice way to end a long grueling 18 miles of technical trail, but my heart went out to all the double marathoners who had to run through all that technical stuff again at the end of their race!

AR:  Your pace, about 8:30/mile, is respectable for a road marathon, but this was a tricky trail with twists, turns, and plenty of rocks.  Even splits is a common goal, but hard to achieve in a long race.  What was your approach and what actually happened?

Jonathan Garner:  I had some insider knowledge from Brandon Ostrander, who runs this trail quite often and coaches the Rogue Running trail training group. I asked him for a race plan based on a goal finish time and how he would interpret that over the various aspects of the course. What he came up with was a great strategy, that allowed me to have small incremental checkpoints to see how I was clocking all throughout the race and to stay on top of my nutrition and hydration, and it surprisingly made the race go by very quickly. I didn’t experience any low moments during the race and I ended up running just a couple minutes under my goal time! Kudos to Coach Brandon.

AR:  You were about 12 minutes behind the winner, Jasen Ritter, and a half hour ahead of third place, Kenton Dechant.  Did you run with either of them?

Jonathan Garner:  I’m not entirely sure where Kenton started at the beginning of the race, but Jasen and I were running 2nd and 3rd through the first two miles, then he and I made a move to 1st and 2nd around mile 3 and stayed within visual distance of each other for a bit. After mile 5 things shook out and neither of us were in sight of the other. I stayed with my race strategy to run a conservative race and Jasen kept on doing his thing. It was at this point I knew that the rest of the day would be ran in complete solitude, save for the few hikers and aid station volunteers I saw intermittently.  Thankfully I had my plan and knew the things I needed to do to accomplish my goal time, stuck to it, stayed positive throughout the race, and in my opinion it was a beautiful race!

The women’s double marathon was won by Jessie Winnet, in 11:14:33, good enough for second place overall and a course record by over an hour.  Robbie Marsh was the men’s winner, in 8:45:54, also a course record.

Congratulations to Andy, Jonathan, and all the runners at Goodwater.  Spectrum’s next race is Saddle Blazer, on February 24.

Full results for Goodwater are here.

A couple of Austin’s best ultramarathoners traveling up to North-East Texas for the Running the Rose event at Tyler State Park.  Dennis Runyan was third in the 108K, in 13:39.  Katie Graff was first woman and second overall in the 54K, at 5:14.

Interesting Articles

Strava has been all over the news this past week, due to the possible revealing of sensitive military intelligence as part of their global heatmap project.  Check out this Guardian article for the details.  (H/T to Dan Hannon)  The US military is now reviewing their rules regarding fitness tracking devices.  It must be hard for groups like that to keep up with advancing technology.  If you haven’t used the Strava heatmap, you should try it out the next time you’re looking for a new running route.  It’s especially great when traveling.  The NY Times had an interesting story on the kid who discovered this “breach,” an Australian college student on his summer break.

Some controversy at a big ultramarathon in Hong Kong.  The HK100, part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, is a 100K race in the mountains surrounding Hong Kong.  It sounds incredible.  The men’s race came down to 2 runners and one of them accepted a water bottle from a spectator.  He later tossed the bottle.  Both the acceptance of aid and the littering are against the rules and he was DQ’d.  I can understand the ruling.  But I’m having trouble with the anger directed at this poor guy.  If you’ve ever done an ultra, you’ll know that your decision-making abilities are not at an ideal level late in the race.  He made a mistake, he paid.  Let him run again without stigma.  Rage coverage from iRunFar.  Controversy coverage from Outdoor & Extreme.

Mirna Valerio, also know as Fat Girl Running, is touring to support her new book:  A Beautiful Work in Progress.

Pam LeBlanc drives the Austin Marathon course with Rogue’s Chris McClung.

Another great article from David Roche on Trail Runner, this time on Training to Run Faster as You Age.  I’m trying to memorize it.

A documentary film on the Boston marathon will be shown at the Gateway 16 on February 17.  Sounds cool.  (H/T to Jorge Uribe)

And finally, in honor of the Super Bowl, it seems the Patriots may be winning so many close games due to their fitness training.  They end many practices with team hill sprints.  From The Ringer.  (H/T to Andy Bitner)

Upcoming Races

Ultrarunners from around the country will be out at the Huntsville State Park for the Rocky Racoon 100 miler this weekend.  This event by Tejas Trails is once again the USATF trail 100 mile national championship race.  Tejas will be out there for 2 straight weekends, with the Rocky 50 miler being the weekend after.

Road runners are gearing up for the Austin Marathon, just over 2 weeks to go, on February 18.  There is also a half marathon and a 5K as part of the event.