The Interval, 2/21/18

David Fuentes chasing Craig Leon at mile 6. Gilbert is yelling something inspiring.  Photo by Dan Hannon.

The Austin Marathon weekend, by all accounts, was a great success.  High Five Events made a couple of big changes: a new marathon course and the addition of the Manzano Mile on Saturday.  They added prize money and attracted a deeper pool of elite runners for the marathon and half marathon.  And they finally got some decent weather, after several years of excessive warmth and humidity.

The highlight of the marathon was Allison Macsas repeating as the women’s winner with a 2:43.  Such a great time on a tough course and fast enough to qualify Macsas for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials.  I hope High Five will succeed in bringing that race to Austin.  The men’s winner was also local, Joey Whelan of Spring Branch built on his win at 3M with a fine 2:21.  The Loop has a nice article on the elite marathoners.

Allison Macsas nearing the finish and the win. Photo by Erik Stanley.

The half marathon men’s top 3 were all from out of town.  Patrick Smyth of Sante Fe was the winner in 1:04.  The women’s race was close, with Hillary Montgomery of Spring TX running 1:16:15 to beat Allison Mendez-Cleaver by 4 seconds.

Another half marathoner, Kayleigh Williamson, finished the Austin half for the second straight year.  She ran a PR by an hour and 45 minutes.  Check out Pam LeBlanc’s article on Kayleigh.   “She has said that she wants to encourage others with Down Syndrome to run and get fit.”  Her hard work and perserverance are an inspiration to everyone.

Full results for the marathon, half marathon, and 5K are here.

The Manzano Mile was a new addition, held on Saturday on Riverside, in front of the Palmer Events Center.  16 runners were in the Elite field.  The men’s race was close, with the top 3 all hitting the finish in 4:11.  Daniel Herrera of New Orleans was the winner, followed by Yasunari Kusu and Dylan Blankenbaker.  The top Austin finisher was Kenyon Butler in 4:18.  The women’s race was won by Dana Mecke in 4:47, followed closely by Jennifer Hall and Mary Beth Hamilton.  Allison Mendez-Cleaver was 4th, in 5:01, the day before she placed second in the half marathon.

91 runners participated in the sub-elite race.  The men’s winner was Anthony Lopez, 16, from San Marcos, who ran 4:30 on a course with a couple of tight turns.  Impressive.  The fastest woman was Christine Sprehe, who ran 5:32.  I heard from Laura Mitchell, who ran 5:40, 4th place and 1st in her age group:  “I’m always down for a 1 mile run and when Leo announced he was part of putting one on, I put it on the calendar.  My coach, Carmen Troncoso, wrote me a few workouts to get me more speedy; as workouts previously had been more strength endurance at 5K paces. The course was great. Having raced Carlsbad5000 several times, I knew how to negotiate the turns, which I think helped me get into contention for the win.  The crowd coming down the home stretch was electric. I hope they continue to put on this race for years to come.”

I was out on the marathon course at a couple points, the First Street bridge at mile 6 and Cesar Chavez at mile 23.  It was great to see so many people enjoying the race.  I’ll try to organize a bigger crowd next year to cheer people on Cesar Chavez, it was a bit desolate near the Pleasant Valley intersection.  I heard the crowd support was great in the next mile and through to the finish.

Evan Baat (left) running smooth. Photo by Emily Phan.

I got a bunch of runners to tell me their race stories:

Shane Pitsch, marathon, 5:19

I ran the Austin Marathon on Sunday, just ten weeks after running my first, in San Antonio. My number one observation was that it’s a whole lot easier to run 26.2 miles when the temperature is 25-30 degrees cooler, haha!

Evan Baat, marathon, 3:55

I am very happy for completing my first marathon and checking off one thing from my bucket list. A big takeaway from this race was that I should have studied the elevation map before going into the race. I mistakenly used a little too much energy from mile 20 to 23 without conserving my energy for the last three miles. The last three miles were tough, all uphill. Mile 20 to 23 got me thinking I felt great, but it wasn’t the case! I was just running downhill, so I paid the price at the end. Looking forward to doing it again the next year!

Nate Ford, en route to a new PR. Photo by Emily Phan.

Nate Ford, marathon, 3:17

Sunday’s race was a surreal experience for me. I spent so much time before the race worrying about what could go wrong, but I ended up running a near-perfect race for myself. Running on my home course was a huge advantage, as I really knew where to push the pace and where to take it easy. Seeing so many people cheering for me and Trail Roots in general put a huge smile on my face through almost all 26 miles. The weather was perfect, and I never knew the old course to worry about the new climbs. Definitely looking forward to running it again next year.

Eli Powell, marathon, 4:30

This was my first marathon and I have to say it was a really great experience. The first view of the crowd ahead of me going up Congress was incredibly energizing as was seeing the city skyline shrouded with low clouds. Spotting people I knew either in the sidelines or in the race really helped me keep going and I’ve never gotten so many high fives from little kids in my life. The community support and energy level made the whole event feel very special.

I was pretty happy with my own performance though I started having hamstring/glute cramping issues at mile 23 and found myself doing some walking for a long stretch. Luckily my Trail Roots teammate Adriana helped to get me running again and finish at 4:30:09. I would have been much later without the help.  Not having done one of these before, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I feel like this is a great place to develop from.

I was a little sad that I didn’t make my ultimate goal of beating the guy in the banana suit despite coming very close. I kept seeing him as I went through the day and as I’d pass him or he’d pass me I would say to myself, “this guy is everywhere!  Maybe there’s more than one guy in a banana suit.  Maybe there’s a bunch!” I told myself at around mile 10 that I had to finish faster than the banana and that I was going to mash him. So when I found myself walking in the wilderness of crampland and he bounded past me (the slippery bugger) it really put my emotions through a blender. I managed to catch him later and was feeling pretty good about myself when going through the chute to the finish who should come peeling past me?  You guessed it the yellow one.  He came alongside me for the briefest moment…then he split.  Next year Chiquita, next year…

Eli Powell and Adriana Morales at the finish. Photo courtesy of Adriana.

Michael Langer, marathon, 4:48

This was my first road marathon. When I started running, my father talked to me about how running a marathon is not a healthy thing to do for your body. I didn’t think I would ever do it. Yet back in August I signed up for the Distance Challenge full track (half track is a soft option), because I thought the company I work for, NXP, will pay for my marathon entry, and I wanted the Distance Challenge finisher jacket. However, NXP pulled the sponsorship, so I was out on my own. My original goal was to finish under 5 hours, but as the race approached, my ego was growing bigger and bigger, and I set up my split paces to aim at 4:30. I attended the Rogue Running Prep and Pump session, and made a custom pace wrist-band for myself, specifying the segment pace and average pace for each segment. The plan was to start slowly and run a negative split. The fun started and a mile and a half in, I heard Ship of Fools coach Al Cummings yelling “way to go, ship!”, so I yelled back “way to coach!”. On South First, many guys pulled off to piss in a ditch. I heard women around me saying “Oh, that’s so gross” appreciatively, so I figured I need to do it too. I started feeling fatigued on Guadalupe – it was a long slow uphill on a narrow course with a lot less company, a lot more car traffic, and not much support. It’s a vibrant part of town, but I wasn’t feeling the vibe. I ended up with 2:18 half split and 4:48 finish. There was lots of cheering and support on the course, including many people I knew. Gilbert (of Gilbert’s Gazelles) was cheering at several places on the course and ran with me up the 11th St hill. Allison Macsas after winning the race at 2:43 was cheering at the finish with her fiancee, Gabe Steger. Of all the signs on the course, the one that really hit home for me was “You could’ve chosen chess”. Chess is indeed my main hobby and there was an important chess tournament going on in Fort Worth during the President’s Day weekend. I chose to play there 2 years ago and it was my best performance (like a PR in running) that earned me $1500 in prize money. Last year, I chose to run the Austin half instead, and this year, I was running the full, but I could’ve chosen chess! There was also a sign that said that only 0.5% of the people finish a marathon, and as I was running, I was trying to calculate what the percentage is in Austin. I figured it’s gotta be close to 1%. All in all, I am glad I did it, and while I was feeling completely miserable after around mile 21-22, I felt just fine the next day, after getting a good night’s sleep.

Matt Fletcher, having too much fun as a pacer. Photo by Emily Phan.

I heard from a few members of the marathon pacing team.

Paul Terranova, marathon, 3:00 pace group leader

(I asked Paul about the contest between the pacers to hit their mile splits and total time goals.  He hit his target with an accuracy of 1 second.)

3:00:00.  It might be hard to beat this for closest to the pin.

That being said, we’ll do our data analysis to the nth degree, definitely throw in a couple of regressions, random walks, integrals, and derivatives to make it interesting.  Plus we’ll need the appropriate audits to validate the final results, it might take weeks and maybe it won’t even be disclosed for public consumption until our pacer post-pace party!!!  Seriously, the pace team isn’t out there for the glory and we take immense pride in our accuracy, precision, encouragement and enthusiasm over the entire 42.195K distance, not just our final gun/chip time.

Joel Stanford, marathon, 3:20 pace group leader

Last year there was so much carnage on the course (including my own struggles) that I didn’t get to experience pacing people all the way through to their goal time.  This year we had large group of people much of way and two in particular that lasted the entire time.  One guy even refused to sprint ahead at the finish in favor of crossing directly with us (he still got a PR).  It was incredibly inspiring and the mutual suffering and conversation reminded me that while running is technically an individual sport, the community aspect of it and the shared experiences that emerge are in fact some of the best things about it.  It’s given me fresh enthusiasm and an even deeper love of the people that do our sport.

Matt Fletcher, marathon, 3:30 pace group leader

Paul was 3:00:00.3 and we rounded him down in order to avoid an embarrassing DQ for technically going over time 🙂

Course:  I was ready for a change and I think this new course is actually better and I’d argue could be just as fast as old course given it’s downhill to flat over the last 8 miles, once you clear Dean Keaton, an improvement on the old course’s death by Expo and death by Great Northern.  Weather: wow, did we get lucky!  Monday’s weather was worse than last year’s Marathon’s humid & warm and its carnage on the course!  Pacing:  sworn to secrecy on official best-pacer results until pacer-captain-extraordinaire Paul renders them official, but I definitely had a good day, coming in 3-4 seconds under target at the finish (pacer bragging rights includes all the timing mats, though). This was my third year pacing and I still contend that it’s the best way to run Austin, since it’s such a challenging course, though I have definitely set PRs out here, and hats off to everyone who does PR here!  No ‘asterisk’ PR on this course!

Farshid Parandian, half marathon, 1:33

What made me happy was seeing  all my friends cheering on the side line.  My goal was to run a MGP (marathon goal pace) run as the last training run before the Tokyo Marathon next Sunday. I felt very relaxed at the start of the race and managed to maintain the same level of happiness all the way until I crossed the finish line.  Also, I believe all the crazy interval trainings like 100’s of Wilkie’s  I had done during summer and fall of last year is starting  to payoff. Hopefully I can manage to get a PR in Tokyo next Sunday.



Caroline Newman Phillips after the 5K. Photo courtesy of Caroline.

Caroline Newman Phillips, 5K, 26:27

The fun thing about the Paramount 5K is that it’s a relatively low-key race set amidst the hoopla and excitement of the much larger half and full Marathon – kind of the best of both worlds.  The out-and-back course along South Congress was perfect for cheering and for negative splits, as the first half was all uphill and the last half was downhill. “Racing” at six months pregnant, I knew I was not going to set any personal bests, but I did have a fantastic time running for a good cause through Austin Gives Miles, cheering my little heart out for fellow racers, and soaking in the ambiance of such a fantastic event for our community. I started and finished the day at Austin Ed Fund’s Mile 8 aid station at “the Rock,”  with the highlight of high-fiving a marathoning T-Rex.


Caroline is working with the Back the Track campaign and Austin Gives Miles.  She reminded me to mention that the Back the Track campaign is raising funds to renovate the Austin High track we all know and love, and is about 2/3 of the way to raising every penny of our $10,000 dollar-for-dollar matching fund.  They have until February 28th to raise the remaining $3,000 – interested in donating $25, $50, or more and having it doubled by the Moody Foundation match?  Here is the fund-raising website.

Another great community running project is Marathon Kids.  This group exists to help get kids and their families moving.  Courtney Nikolay of Marathon Kids told me that on March 1 to March 2, they’re hosting a 24-hour Run-A-Thon and an accompanying kickoff party at Rogue Running to celebrate their first runners and highlight the inactivity epidemic.  Starting on March 1, there will be live music, appetizers, drinks, a massive silent auction, a few local professional athletes, and a lot of local runners/fitness folks in attendance. They’re also looking to recruit runners/walkers to join them on the treadmill for a 30-60 minute slot during those 24 hours, and invite everyone to come attend the kickoff party.  Check out their website and this Facebook event page.

Interesting Articles

Just one article to mention this week, another great piece from David Roche for Trail Runner.

“Training consistently, with long-term focus on self-improvement, is not just about getting faster or improving in races. In fact, it doesn’t have to be about that at all. For some runners, the best way to conceptualize the process of running training is as a pursuit of the unpredictable daily moments that let you make memories and find joy along the way.”

He writes about training and some keys to enjoyment.  His last point hits home for me:  “…over-emphasizing races risks imposing a narrative that your value as a runner is defined by finish lines. And it’s not (or at least it doesn’t have to be). Races can just be checkpoints in the process, providing structure and opportunities for reflection; they can be celebrations rather than evaluations.”

Upcoming Races

I’ll be thinking about David’s lesson this Saturday, hopefully reaching the finish line at the Saddle Blazer half marathon, while having a great experience.  This event from Spectrum, held on a private ranch near Kileen, also has a marathon and a 10K.