The Interval, 2/7/18

The Austin High Track. Photo courtesy of Back The Track.

Before I get to the local racing news I want to encourage you all to Back The Track.  Of course, I’m talking about the Austin High track that has stood up to hundreds or thousands of laps from every serious runner in Austin.  It’s estimated that 13,000 runners use the track every year.  That’s 20-fold more non-student runners than the 600 Austin High kids that use it annually.  It’s truly a community track.  The location is ideal, with parking and access to Town Lake Trail for warm ups or combined workouts.  The setting is beautiful, with the trees and lake to the South and the skyline of Austin to the East.

The problem is that the track in its current state can’t support this level of use.  The Back the Track group started up a couple years ago to guide the improvement of the track and to help raise the necessary funds.  I discussed the project with Ashley Unbehagen, Austin High parent and initiator of Back the Track, and Caroline Newman Phillips, who works in the Office of Innovation and Development of Austin ISD and Austin Ed Fund, the district’s 501(c)(3) education foundation.

Many of you know that some holes in the surface of the track were repaired last year.  Ashley said that this project was funded by AISD but that it was only a short-term fix.  “The patching is only a band-aid,” she said, “and was meant to last 18 months, at best, and is already failing in spots.”

Back The Track and AISD have engaged Pharis Design Group to come up with a long-term plan.  The hope is that within a few years the site will have the capability of hosting many events, including UIL track meets, more community races (like the Austin Mile Challenge), and many school activities.  They plan to expand the track from 6 lanes to 8 and put on a new fast and durable surface that will support a high level of use.  There will be bleachers, facilities for field events, bathrooms, sidewalks, and water fountains.  The total funding required for the effort is expected to be $2.5 million.  About $400K will come from the Prop 1 school funding bond that was passed last fall.

Fundraising started last year and attracted support from many running and fitness groups and many individual contributors.  About $40K has been raised from this group so far, all of it only for use on the track.  You can make a tax-deductible donation on their webpage:

Back The Track is part of the Austin Gives Miles program from the Austin Marathon.  Any funding from this source, up to $10K, will be matched dollar for dollar by the Moody Foundation.  If you are running the Austin Marathon/ Half/ 5K, please set up the Austin Gives Miles program with Back The Track as your beneficiary and spread the word.  Spectators can donate too – tax-deductible gifts of any size through race day will help secure every penny of the Moody Foundation match.  Use this link for donations.

You can also help out by volunteering at the Back the Track aid station for the Austin Marathon on February 18.  They have the 8 mile station at The Rock; use this link to sign up to volunteer.



Just one area race to report on, the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Run, from Tejas Trails.  This was the 26th edition of Rocky100 and it was again the USATF Trail 100 Mile Championship race.  346 runners from around the world started the race at 6am on Saturdayat Huntsville State Park.  They had to deal with cold and rainy weather throughout the race, along with 4 laps of 25 miles each.  201 people finished the race within the 30 hour cutoff.

The Tejas team worked hard at creating a new route at the park, which is still recovering from damage by Hurricane Harvey.  The main features were still present: mostly flat trail, beautiful piney woods, lots of roots.

The men’s and women’s winners were both repeats from last year.  Sabrina Little won the women’s race for the third year in row and the fourth time overall.  She finished in 15:23, good for second place overall and more than 4 hours ahead of second place woman Ashley Truan.  Ronnie Delzer won the men’s race in 14:52, more than 2 hours ahead of Steve Speirs.  Coverage of the elites from iRunFar.  Full results are here.

I paged through the results looking for people I know and didn’t see many Austin runners.  Of course, I knew about the incredible Thomas Orf, who finished in 15th place for men in 20:12.  Thomas didn’t train much for Rocky100, he’s still recovering from the Desert Solstice 24 Hour race in December.  Thomas was able to ride that high-mileage base with some helpful Jedi Mind Tricks and pep talks from Jaimie Orf to a 20 hour 100 miler.  That’s impressive.

The expert Tejas Trails team have the Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile Trail Run this weekend at the same venue.

I had a couple friends racing in the Sean O’Brien Trail Runs in Malibu last weekend.  The 100K event was a Western States 100 Golden Ticket race, so it attracted an elite field.  The 50K runners had to deal with nearly 7,000 feet of climbing over 31 miles.  Joel Stanford ran a solid 6:50, but reported on Facebook that he had “full body cramps that at times locked my legs so badly that people had to catch me to keep me from toppling.  Temps in the mid 80s with no breeze. Humbling and harrowing and makes Texas look soft and friendly.”  Tyler Mathews completed the 50 mile event with over 11,000 feet of climbing in 11:50.

The U Loop runners at AMISTAD AMÉRICA. Photo courtesy of John Jertson.

I’ve mentioned before the U Loop run on Wednesday mornings.  It’s a conversational pace ~8 miler from Barton Springs Pool, past the new library, up to UT, and back past the state capitol and down Congress Avenue.  5:30 am, sharp, if you want to join the fun.  Today would have been a great time to start since we had another tour of a UT art installation by Doug Dempster, Dean of the College of Fine Arts.  Doug showed us the monumental new mural, AMISTAD AMÉRICA, by José Parlá.  It’s in the Robert B. Rowling Hall and open for viewing.  Truly stupendous, I’ve been thinking about it all day.  This is another project from the UT Landmarks group, which has been amazingly active in bringing prestigious public art projects to UT.

Interesting Articles

I think we’ve all wondered if we are getting the most out of our talent and training.  The Running Rogue podcast has had an excellent series on the mental aspects of training.  This WSJ article reviews some new research on the subject.  (H/T to Dan Hannon)

Check this video on the Leadville 100.

Trail Runner has a good article on Fell Running.

The indoor track season is in full swing and the Millrose games were this past weekend.  The Wanamaker Mile is always fun to watch, this year the winner was Chris O’Hare in 3:54.  A team of US women set a new world record in the 4×800 relay, they ran a stunning 8:05.89, beating the old record by almost a second.  Coverage by Runner’s World.  (H/T to Dan Hannon)

World record beer miler Corey Bellemore is now a sub-4 miler.  He ran a 3:57 in a heat at the Boston University John Thomas Terrier Classic.

Upcoming Races

As I mentioned above, trail runners have the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler this weekend.

The Austin Marathon, Half Marathon, 5K, and Manzano Mile are next week.  Taper madness!