Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

Livestrong Austin Marathon weekend is finally here. It’s one of the best running weekends of the year here in the ATX as runners from around the state and all over the country descend on our community for the marathon or the half. The excitement along the trail and downtown at the Palmer Events Center is palpable as the various exhibitors set up this afternoon for the Marathon Expo which opens tomorrow at 3 p. m.

The marathon has been around now for 21 years, and during that time, it has grown from a small regional race with limited resources to a city-wide race which attracts nearly 20,000 runners. The race is professionally managed and its logistics (start/finish areas, aid stations, timing, race expo, recycling, charities, etc) are all first-class, a huge upgrade from when the expo was held in some cold, leaky tents in Zilker Park.

Regardless of what you may think about the degree of difficulty of the Livestrong course, there’s no denying it is our lone remaining national event. True, times are painfully slow and without prize money, there isn’t an elite field anymore, but Livestrong is an event we can all take pride in.

Let the celebration begin.

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O   It was a big weekend for Betzy Jimenez, the former UT All American, who is now a first-year med student at UTSA. Jimenez, who somehow still finds time to train, PR’ed at the Texas A&M Development Mile last Saturday in 4:43.84, behind Jackie Areson who won it in 4:39. Even bigger news: Jimenez and man about town, Chad Childers (Mr. Gatorade), announced their engagement. He proposed while they were in Belgium over the Christmas holidays.

O Several members of the UT men’s distance corps were in Seattle last weekend for the Husky Indoor Classic. Joseph Stillin (7:56) and Ryan Dohner (7:58) had the fastest two indoor 3000-meter times in UT history, both beating Jake Morse’s UT record of 7:59.21. Craig Lutz and Austin Bussing also competed in a different heat of the 3000. Lutz PR’ed by six seconds in 8:08 and Bussing ran 8:09. Also competing in Seattle were milers Patrick McGregor (4:01) and Kyle Merber (4:02).

O Next up for the UT men and women is the Big 12 Indoors next Friday and Saturday (February 22-23) at Iowa State. The NCAA Indoors are March 8 at the University of Arkansas.

O Former UT All American Jacob Hernandez announced his retirement from track. A three-time NCAA champion in the 800 with a PR of 1:45.31, Hernandez competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials. But, he’s decided it’s time to “move on to other things.”

O Plenty of Austinites have made the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll a favorite race in June every year. San Diego was the first of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races way back in 1998 (I ran in the first one) and since then 30 more have been added. For this year’s San Diego race—on June 2—the course has received a radical change. The race directors have eliminated the woeful stretch around barren Fiesta Island in Mission Bay and have moved the start and finish closer to down (near all the hotels). The race will now finish at Petco Park and will have separate marathon and half marathon start times.

O The Austin City Council has voted 6-1 to open up the 22 miles of hiking and biking trails (Butler, Johnson Creek and Shoal Creek) to 24-hour usage, beginning June 1. But, the trails will be open only for use by cyclists (and not runners) from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The thinking is that cyclists already use the trail at night for transportation purposes so the lifting of the curfew simply makes it legal. Wonder if APD will ticket any early-morning runners.

O Where are they now department: Former RunTex’er Noah Bernard, who has worked for a variety of shoe companies (Puma, Pearl Izumi, Adidas) since leaving Austin, is now the brand director for Hush Puppies in London.

O One of the highlights of the Livestrong Austin Marathon Expo—at least for me—will be two question-and-answer sessions I’ll be hosting. Three great runners—Arturo Barrios, Steve Jones and our own Dick Beardsley—be the featured speakers on Friday at 4 p.m. We’ll do it again on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Please come and join us and get advice from the world’s best.

O What I’m listening to this morning: “Homeward Bound” (live) by Simon and Garfunkel. Recorded in 1967 in New York, this morning was the first time I ever heard this beautiful album.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

The Austin City Council voted last Thursday to lift the curfew on the three main hike-and-bike trails. As it stands now, the trails are “closed” from 10 p.m.-5 a.m.

Who even knew a curfew existed? Not me. But as of June 1st, the Council voted to keep the 22 miles of trails open around the clock. Not for runners or walkers mind you, but mainly for cyclists who use the trail as a transportation corridor.

One runner’s opinion: The entire thing is much ado about nothing. Two realities stand out: The Butler Trail trail never really closes (there’s nothing to close and even if there were, there’s no way to do it). Secondly, I just can’t imagine many cyclists, walkers or runners even use it in the overnight hours.

APD chief Art Acevedo and Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who regularly walks on the Butler Trail, are opposed to lifting the curfew, mainly for financial reasons. Acevedo told Ben Wear of The Statesman that opening up the trails at night would cost his department $3.1 million, mainly because he said APD would need two 12-member shifts of officers to patrol the trails, in addition to the police park patrols. Acevedo said the need for beefed up police presence is due to the transient population that inhabits the trails.

A little perspective from someone—me–who also inhabits the trails (mainly the Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake). First off, the homeless who sleep near the trail, usually either crash out on a few benches scattered around the trail or in two isolated areas. One is on the south side of the trail, along Pleasant Valley Road, where four or five guys usually sleep near the lake. The other is on the north side, just east of I-35, along Festival Beach. But other than those spots, the homeless don’t seem to be a problem on the trail and whether it’s open at night (or not), wouldn’t seem to effect them.

Nor would keeping the trail open seem to effect you and me. Yes, there are probably a handful of runners who use the trail at night, but it isn’t many. The earliest most of us use the Butler Trail is about 5-5:30 a.m. At that time, it’s still pitch black and other than a few of us starting our long runs, there’s hardly anyone else out. Certainly, not any cyclists.

The bigger issue is lighting the the Butler Trail. When the 1.4-mile Boardwalk section is open sometime next year, that part will be lit. But should the rest of the trail also be lit up?

In my opinion, there’s no need. Those of us who run the trail in the pre-dawn darkness have run it so many times that we all know the little ups and downs, especially the concrete dip near Zilker Park that be pretty jarring if you don’t expect it. But other than that, the outline of the trail is visible enough in the dark and the gravel surface is pretty smooth.

Lights? Not necessary. I have no idea what it would cost to light the trail, but it seems that money could be spent better elsewhere. I’m sure APD Chief Acevedo could find a better way to spend it, especially since our beloved trails are destined to be open all night long and APD will have to patrol it.

*****

O Peter Douglas, who owns and directs the 10/20 race in Austin up at The Domain on April 14th, said his registration is way ahead of last year when 8,000 ran the inaugural race. He’s expecting 10,000 runners this year and will once again offer substantial prize money, including Texas-only bonuses as well as for world and American 10-mile records, that is certain to draw an elite field. For the rest of us, there will be 20 bands out on the 10-mile course, plus headliner Candlebox at the finish.

O More Douglas. For the past eight months, Douglas has been trying to put together another 10/20 race in the San Diego area but this one is even more ambitious than the Austin race. Douglas envisioned a course that went up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, but securing permits had been tough. Last week, Douglas finally secured final approval from three municipalities the course will run through in North County—Solana Beach, Del Mar and Cardiff—to hold the California 10/20 on February 16, 2014. This won’t be any run-of-the-mill race. Instead, Douglas has plotted a spectacular ocean-side course which will start and finish at the beautiful Del Mar Fairgrounds. Other than the first and last mile, the entire course will be on the Pacific Coast Highway, right along the ocean. Douglas has lined up a title sponsor (the San Diego Union Tribune), will have nearly $25,000 in prize money and is targeting a field of 12,000 runners. Registration opens February 21st.

O The Cupid’s Chased 5-K in Georgetown last weekend had perfect weather and nearly 700 runners. Leading the way was Alex Moore in 16:40 with Zach Bradshaw second in in 17:11 and oldie but goodie Bill Schroeder third in 17:18. Samantha Evola led the women in 18:26, followed by Katie Kelley in 18:49 and Jamie Ashworth in 20:27. Schroeder and Linda Goddard (21:28) were the first masters.

O Kara June and Joe Thorne, who moved to San Luis Obispo last year, welcomed their first born—a daughter—last week. Don’t have a name yet, but mom and daughter are doing fine.

O Staying in the baby department: Jay and Joy Hilscher are expecting a baby in about six weeks. That delivery date just so happens to coincide with the date of their Texas Independence Relay (March 23-24) which goes from the Memorial Museum in Gonzales to the San Jacinto Monument, 200 miles away. Jay isn’t sweating it. “Joy’s sister is a doctor,” he said. “It will be a good relay story.” I’ll bet.

O David Fuentes, just back from a skiing vacation to Colorado, is the new rep for PowerBar in these parts. Fuentes, who won the Livestrong Austin Half Marathon in 2010-11 and finished second last year, is sitting this one out.

O Welcome home Joe McCelleon. The former Texas Tech runner, who was a force in local road races, moved to Scottsdale, Arizona last year, but has returned to the ATX where he’ll manage Chez Zee.

O The great Carmen Troncoso finished second overall in the masters division of the USA Cross-Country Champs last weekend in St. Louis. The 53-year-old ran 23:06 (6-K) to finish 36 seconds in back of 46-year-old Jody Hawkins. Carmen was the oldest runner in the top 10 and had the best age-graded result to earn $500.

O It was a good/bad news week for Lance Armstrong who can’t seem to escape the headlines. The good: It was revealed that Armstrong unloaded his private jet for $8 million in December just ahead of his semi-confession to Oprah. Evidently, his Gulfstream (circa 1996) had been on the block for a year. And the bad: Armstrong was given a two-week extension on a deadline to testify under oath before USADA which clearly didn’t buy his entire mea culpa with Oprah, including his assertion that he was clean for the last two Tour de Frances he rode. Although he admitted to cheating in all the Tours through 2005, the statute of limitations have expired (perjury, drug trafficking, etc) on those races, but the statutes have not expired on any legal violations in his 2010 and 2011 races. Even worse, the Feds have relaunched a criminal investigation of Armstrong for obstruction of justice, witness tampering and intimidation.

O The final race of the 2012-13 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge is next week with the Livestrong Austin Marathon, but there will be some date revisions for next season’s DC. If you want to plan ahead, the preliminary dates look like this: IBM Uptown Classic 10-K (October 6), Run for the Water 10-Miler (October 27), Decker Challenge (December 8, rather than switching to November 24), Rogue 30-K (January 5), 3M Half Marathon (January 19) and Livestrong Austin Marathon (February 16). Under this format, Rogue moves its date up three weeks from this year. This format also provides a bigger gap between the fifth race in the series—3M–and Livestrong.

O The Livestrong Austin Marathon announced three top women will race the Half Marathon next Sunday. The three—all from the Brooks-Hansons team in Michigan—are Erin Richard, Melissa White and Lavenna Kubatsky. This will be Richards’ first half, but she has a 10-K road best of 34:49. White has a 1:12:38 under he belt, while Kubatsky has a 1:16:54 PR.

O Been hearing rumblings about a massive new marathon in—of all places—China. The whispers have been about a music-themed marathon with a first-time field upward of 70,000. Nope, Rock ‘n’ Roll is not involved.

O Kelly Williamson, who won the 3M Half Marathon last month in 1:16:19, opened her triathlon season last weekend with a third place finish in the Panama 70.3. Her time of 4:29:08 was more than 10 minutes slower than her time in the same race last year. Kelly lost about 12 minutes to the leaders on the bike leg but recovered on the run (1:19, fastest among the women) to move up from sixth to third.

O: What I’m listening to this morning: “The Red Headed Stranger” by Willie Nelson. I’ve listened to Willie’s masterpiece a million times since it came out in 1975 and never tire of it. Never.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

First, the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon did the unexpected and announced a date shift for the 2013 race from its mid-November date to December 8th. But that didn’t last long.  December 8th is in direct conflict with the Dallas Marathon’s date and the Dallas organizers expressed their unhappiness to The Competitor Group which owns San Antonio. This week Competitor bowed to pressure and pulled a switcheroo, moving San Antonio back to its original race date.

Why did San Antonio cave? Pretty simple. The Competitor Group has a contract with Dallas through 2016 that expressly forbids it from utilizing the same December date. The Competitor Group’s contract is for a licensing and rights agreement with Dallas for the Dallas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon which the Dallas Marathon group helps to organize.

Dallas is certainly within its rights to exercise the clause that prohibits San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll from moving its date to December, but I can’t believe that even if San Antonio had changed, it would have a negative impact—or any appreciable impact–on the numbers for the Dallas Marathon.

Both are well-run events, but each race draws primarily from its own huge region. (Same with Houston.) I don’t know the stats, but I doubt there are many Dallas marathoners who would choose the four-hour drive to San Antonio over their own terrific local race. However, I know there are plenty of San Antonio and Austin marathoners who will make that drive to Dallas for better racing conditions in December. Dallas didn’t have very good weather in 2012, but generally it’s a much better bet to have better marathon conditions than San Antonio.

It isn’t like Dallas and San Antonio are next door neighbors like we are with the Alamo City. Some Austinites are forced to choose between San Antonio and Dallas, but even with the split date, very few are likely to run both. I realize some use the San Antonio half as a tune up for Dallas as I did this fall, but those numbers are still pretty minimal.

If anything, I’m guessing that Dallas draws some serious racers away from San Antonio, but again I doubt San Antonio draws but a handful from Dallas.

Anyway, the big losers in all this are the 29,000 or so who run San Antonio. I’ve run all five races of its existence and four of the five have been plagued with abysmal running weather. Mid-November is simply too early in San Antonio for a marathon. Clearly, December would have been better but that’s not going to happen now.

Give credit to The Competitor Group for at least making the attempt to switch dates to get out of the heat. Too bad it was blocked by Dallas.

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O Department of Corrections: The results from the Rogue 30-K last Sunday were a bit confusing—and still are. I wasn’t able to get to Cedar Park for the race, but heard positive reports from several friends who ran it. Anyway, in my brief race report on it Monday, I had several of the results wrong. Marc Bergman did win the 30-K in 1:55:15, but Kip Chemirir was second (not Michael Budde) in 1:57:01. Mariko Neveau—I believe—was the first woman in 2:01:29. If not, Karen Saenz, who leads the Distance Challenge, was first in 2:15:01. Allison Macsas, who was pacing, was second (or third) in 2:16:43.

O We’re in a bit of a racing lull before the Livestrong Austin Marathon on February 17th, but there’s a great little tune-up in Georgetown this weekend. It’s the 18th annual Cupid’s Chase 5-K which starts in downtown, goes around Southwestern and finishes in The Bark Park. It’s a fun, mostly flat, point-to-point course, put on by Erin Ruyle. There’s a shuttle from the finish back to the start, but it’s not far and you can easily walk or jog. The race is Saturday morning at 8:30. For more info, go to www.cupid.georgetown.org.

O The IBM Uptown Classic 10-K is set on its traditional first Sunday in October date (October 6th) on the same course, up at The Domain. But the race date was in some jeopardy as it conflicts with the ACL Festival which, this year, runs over two weekends (October 4-6 and 11-13) in Zilker Park. Obviously, ACL is nowhere near The Domain but APD is stretched pretty thin those weekends and the city had put an embargo on any other events. After some negotiations, the city agreed to allow IBM to go on as scheduled. Whew.

O The Decker Challenge still hasn’t resolved its 2013 date. The Austin Runners Club was going to shift Decker from its traditional December 8th date to November 24th to avoid conflicting with Dallas and San Antonio. But now that Dallas and San Anton have settled their differences, Decker is reconsidering the November date and may simply go back to its original preference of December 8th.

O BTW: Livestrong generated about 2000 early entries for the 2014 race by offering a two-for-one offer earlier this week. If you took advantage of the special Livestrong offer and registered for this year’s race within a certain time period, you were automatically entered in the ’14 race.

O As we start to ramp up for Livestrong, there will be plenty of marathon-related events. One to keep in mind is a talk by Hal Higdon, noted running author, at Luke’s Locker on February 10th at 10 a.m. If you’re a newbie running the Livestrong half or marathon, Hal will have some helpful tips. (Hal is the grandfather of former Notre Dame runner Kyle Higdon who is a UT grad student.)

O More proof of the power of the marathon. Naperville, Illinois, a beautiful suburb about 20 miles west of Chicago, is having its inaugural marathon November 10th, about a month after the sold-out Chicago Marathon. Naperville hasn’t even announced a course yet, but when it opened for registration on Monday, it filled its field of 3500 half marathoners and marathoners almost instantly and closed for registration the same day it opened.

O Congrats to Ashish Patel on his engagement to Kelly Simmons. Ashish, one of the top runners in town (Team Mizuno), won the Decker Challenge in December and is running Livestrong in a couple of weeks.

O Pieter Kroon, physical therapist to the stars, is returning to Austin. Pieter, who has worked on every top runner and triathlete in town, left our fair city for Salt Lake a couple of years ago. But he is returning to his previous post as director of PT for Sports Performance International which is moving to new offices at Steck and MoPac.

O San Antonio is one of the most active cities in the country for promoting itself as a host for major sporting events such as the Final Four, Cowboys training camp and is even hosting two spring-training games in March in the Alamodome. San Antonio, under the leadership of its aggressive Sports Commission and its dynamic young mayor Julian Castro, is one of six finalists bidding to host the 2016 Olympic Swimming Trials which would be held in a portable pool in the Alamodome. If you’re interested in supporting its bid, go to www.sanantoniosports.com.

O If you tune into the Super Bowl on Sunday, you might be shocked to see a running commercial. Skecher’s will have a 30-second “teaser” ad called “Man vs. Cheetah” which leads to another spot later in the game which may include their top endorser Meb Keflezighi. At a cost of $4 million per 30 seconds, the ad better sell a boatload of running shoes.

O What I’m listening to this morning: “The Who Sell Out,” by The Who. Not my favorite Who album, but favorite Who single (“I Can See For Miles”) is on it.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

The turmoil, controversy and general overall animosity toward Lance Armstrong has reached such a fever pitch that even something as monumental as being stripped of  an Olympic medal (bronze from 2000) is no more than a footnote these days.

Simply keeping up with all the hubris, lawsuits and speculation about Armstrong is impossible to keep track of anymore. So I won’t even try. Instead, as I watch at least part of his act/story/excuse/confession to Oprah tonight, I’ll think back on two brushes with Armstrong that have always bothered the heck out of me.

The first happened about 10 years ago, at the height of the public’s idolatry with Armstrong. Bart Yasso and I were flying to Austin for the Austin Marathon and on our flight was a cyclist I vaguely recognized. When we stopped to change planes in Chicago, Bart was talking to the guy at the gate who was in obvious physical distress and looked terrible.

Turned out he was in late-stage cancer and, as it turned out, I knew him. He was a nationally-ranked cyclist who I had seen race many times and he was married to a woman I knew from work. The poor guy was not even 30, but the cancer and chemo had ravaged his body so badly, that he could barely stand without a cane.

He was headed to Austin on the same plane we were and, as he told us, he had been granted a private audience with his hero—Mr. Yellow Jersey—at some cycling event that weekend. “All I want to do is meet Lance and shake his hand.” What was left unsaid was, “Before I die,” but it was understood.

After running the marathon—this was the bitterly cold, windy race of 2003—Bart and I hustled to the airport to catch a noon flight. At the gate, was the same guy who was positively aglow after his meeting with Lance.

He had spent five glorious minutes with Armstrong. I was a little taken aback that he had flown halfway across the country just to meet Armstrong who didn’t have more than five minutes to spare for this fellow cyclist who only had a few more weeks left to live. But this cyclist made it sound like they were the best five minutes of his life.

A few months later I ran into his widow who told me that the meeting with Armstrong had meant so much to him and that when he died, he died at peace after his brief encounter with the man he perceived as the world’s greatest cancer survivor…and cyclist.

I’m sure Armstrong had many such encounters with other cancer patients and I’m also certain he provided the same type of incalculable inspiration. I just can’t help but wonder how other cancer survivors would feel about Armstrong today.

My other Armstrong story is considerably less uplifting and confirms the ruthlessness he has been accused so often in the last month. For years, one of my best friends in the running industry was a running products manager for Nike. He worked there 27 years and was one of the most respected men in the business. About five years ago, he shifted from running to the Lance Armstrong/Livestrong Collection. During that time, he had frequent interaction with Armstrong here and at Nike HQ as he developed the line which needed Lance’s stamp of approval.

During Armstrong’s buildup for the ’07 New York City Marathon, my friend diplomatically mentioned to Armstrong that he was wearing the wrong clothes in a photo shoot. Evidently, Armstrong wasn’t wearing clothes that were part of the collection which he was contracted to wear.

Regardless, the next day my friend was summarily fired at Armstrong’s direction and booted out the door from a company he had so loyally served. It’s probably as much an indictment of Nike as Armstrong, but it also shows the vindictiveness that is now coming at Armstrong from every angle.

Regardless, we’ll hear Armstrong’s story tonight. I just wonder—to mimic what Armstrong said a few years ago in response to Tyler Hamilton’s initial doping charges—whether Armstrong still likes his story these days.

*****
O The USA 100-K Trail Championships were held in Bandera last Saturday and Sage Canady of Boulder won the race in 8:13:49. But holding down third and fourth place were Austinites Paul Terranova, 39, in 8:55:41 and Erik Stanley in fourth in 9:21:50. Terranova, more noted for his age group prowess in the triathlon, had, of course, run four 100-milers last summer before completing the Hawaii Ironman in October (the first to run all four and the Ironman in a single year). As far as I can tell, Stanley, the former UT All American from Spring, was running his first ultra and although he almost quit twice during the race, he hung in to the finish. Steve Moore of Austin was ninth in 10:39, Jorge Cardenas of Round Rock was 16th in 11:24 and Sydney Pitt finished 19th in 12:19. Bill Patience, 58 of Georgetown was 38th in 14:36.

O Top woman at Bandera was Michele Yates of Colorado who finished seventh overall to win her division in 10:08 with Melanie Fryar of San Antonio in second in 10:17. Sabrina Little, another Texan, was third in 11:00.

O Desiree Ficker, who was pacing the 1:40 group at the 3M Half on Sunday, was running for two. Although Ficker is barely showing, the 36-year-old is pregnant. The former pro triathlete who finished second in the 2006 Ironman World Champs, married pro football scout Matt Berry in November and the couple are expecting their first child. Congrats!

O As usual, the 3M Half Marathon was a terrific race. The rough stretch of hills in the final two miles along Red River and Dean Keaton certainly were a difficult way to finish, but the change was forced by the closure of the UT campus due to the weekend move-in. Next year the race will revert back to the course it used in 2012 which has a gentler finish. One change that I wish race directors Matt Fagan and Jane Kovacs would institute is announcing on the website beforehand where the results will be posted. This year the results were posed live by We Time Races (www.wetimeraces.com) but the link was never established until much later on Sunday, leaving many 3M runners wondering their time and place. Easy to fix.

O I was down in Houston for the Marathon Expo (rushing home late Saturday night to get back in time for 3M), but a lot of the talk in Houston wasn’t about PRs, training or even the impending rotten weather for the race. Nope, most of the chatter was about the flu. Seems like half the field either had it, was just getting over it or was wondering whether they should run through it. Olympic Trials champ Meb Keflezighi was getting over a bad bout with it which forced him to miss a week of running. Meb was still so weak, he decided against starting the half marathon which was won by Fiyesa Lilesa of Ethiopia in 1:01:54. The top American was Luke Puksedra, a 6-4 Oregon graduate from Utah, who ran 1:02:32 for fifth place.

O The first Texan in the women’s marathon in Houston was none other than Laleh Mojtabeezamani who placed ninth in 2:53:36 in her first marathon. Laleh just graduated from UT in December where she was an academic All Big 12 in track and cross-country runner for Steve Sisson. Originally from Keller, Laleh has begun teaching in the Metroplex Teach for America program.

O For the next two years (2014-15), Houston will once again play host to the men’s and women’s USA Half Marathon Championships. The dates haven’t been set yet, but the US champs will be held in January in conjunction with the Aramco Houston Half, rather than being a separate stand-alone race as it was in ’12 when Houston hosted the Olympic Trials and ’10-11 when the Half Champs were in Houston. No dates have been set yet, but it will probably be the same second weekend in January.

O BTW: The 2010 national half-marathon champ Antonio Vega, who won his lone national title in Houston, was back in Houston for the half marathon after suffering through two years of hip injuries and two operations. Vega was hoping Houston would signal the start of his comeback to national prominence, but he dropped out of the half after only five miles and told friends he might need hip surgery again.

O UT announced yesterday that Michele Freeman, who has served as a volunteer coach for the women’s track team the past 10 years, will fill in as an interim sprint coach for the ’13 indoor and outdoor season. Freeman, a three-time Olympian from Jamaica, competed at the University of Florida where she was coached by Bev Kearney. Kearney was forced to resign as UT’s head coach two weeks ago after she admitted having a consensual relationship in 2002 with a runner on her team.

O A quarter-mile part of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail will be closed down next week for about six months. The section of the trail just east of the Seaholm Power Plant on the north side of Lady Bird Lake will be fenced off, directing runners and bikers up to Cesar Chavez and a crumbly, rocky pathway that borders the road. The section the city is closing includes the small footbridge that connects the trail to the peninsula along the shore at Shoal Creek. City engineers say that section of the trail along the shore is eroding so badly that it needs to be shored up with boulders, trees and vegetation.

O In other trail news, the water coolers along the trail, supplied by RunTex, Luke’s and Rogue Running will soon reappear. City officials forced the stores to remove the water coolers along the trail in November after determining that state law required the coolers to be permitted. The City Council will waive about $650 in permitting fees for the stores that provide the water if the coolers are locked and secured so they can’t be tampered with. Even though there are water fountains at the MoPac trailhead (The Rock), the fountains have been shut down since the cold weather gripped the area. The coolers should be back on the trail in a couple of weeks.

O At this point, I don’t know if anything can be done to save the Lions Municipal Golf Course on Lake Austin Boulevard. UT owns the land and plans to tear up the 141-acre historic course in 2019 when the city’s lease expires. Anyway, some folks are still fighting the good fight to keep Muny and for the second year, there will be a 5-K race on the course. Staged by Luke’s Locker, the Run for the Green 5-K will be held on March 3 on the actual course at 8 a.m. Longtime Muny employee Mike Brent, who is a runner, is the brains behind the race and last year he got Ben Crenshaw, a vocal proponent of the Save Muny campaign, to be the official starter. Interested? Go to  www.savemuny.com.

O Don’t forget the Rogue 30-K is next Sunday (January 27th) in Cedar Park. The fifth of the six race Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge Series,the 30-K brings back a familiar distance to the Distance Challenge. Ruth England of Rogue expects about 500 runners in the 30-K with another 400 in the accompanying 10-K for this first-time event.

O What I’m listening to this morning: “Cost of Living” by Delbert McClinton. Delbert and his son Clay are performing together at the historic Bugle Boy in La Grange on Friday night at 8 p.m. The show will also be streamed live. For info, go to www.delbert.com.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

HOUSTON—It’s pretty much indisputable that the Houston Marathon (and its half) is the best, most important race in Texas. Houston has been a world-class race since the early ’80s (it was one of the first professional marathons) and has hosted, hosting two Olympic Trials and numerous national championships. But what’s astonishing in a state has huge as Texas with more runners (and resources) than any other place other than California, Houston is the only nationally significant race in the entire state.

Houston isn’t the biggest race in Texas. Its combined fields is 25,000 (30,000 if you count the 5-K) which still places it behind San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll in terms of finishers (2011 statistics), but numbers don’t tell the entire story. Houston is a big-league race while the other major races such as Dallas, Livestrong, 3M and even the Capitol 10,000 simply aren’t.

Houston is always an instant sell out, reaching its cap (13,000 in the half, 12,000 in the marathon) within weeks of when early registration opens in May. Certainly, Houston is one of the biggest cities in the country and has a vast pool of runners to draw from, but the race is also a virtual blueprint in terms of logistics, professional organization, sponsorship, course, year ’round training programs and just about anything else that makes a race exceptional.

This is the 41st year for Houston and one of the elements that makes the race so prestigious is its field which is always stacked. Last year, was probably the greatest year in its history when it hosted both the men’s and women’s Olympic Trials and the prior two years, it was the venue for national half-marathon championships.

Nothing like that this year, but the marathon field is formidable with a platoon of world-class Africans, including Ethiopian Bazu Worku (2:05:25). There are even some good Americans such as Andrew Carlson and Fernando Cabada.

But most of the top Americans are in the Aramco Half, including Olympic Marathon Trials champ Meb Keflezighi, Patrick Rizzo, 2010 Aramco champ Antonio Vega (on the comeback trail) and promising Luke Puksedra.

Having a great field doesn’t automatically mean it’s a great race, but in Houston it definitely adds to the excitement and media attention built up around it. Austin, Dallas and San Antonio have none of that. Our marathon was never in Houston’s class—it simply couldn’t compete in terms of prize and appearance money—but Livestrong has suffered greatly in terms of prestige and interest without an elite (or even semi-elite) field.

There isn’t a man on the planet who covets fast times and top runners more than Livestrong director John Conley (he lives and breathes this stuff), but without heftier sponsorship and prize money, not to mention an extremely difficult course (i.e, slow times), it’s impossible to attract nationally important runners. Conley isn’t alone. San Antonio and Dallas now only offer a pittance in prize money and are essentially big, local races.

Houston isn’t. It’s the last great race left standing in Texas.

******

  • Evidently, Lance Armstrong will make his mea culpa when he sits down in Austin next week with Oprah Winfrey for his first interview since being stripped of all his Yellow Jerseys, sponsors and just about everything else. A news release from the Oprah Winfrey Network said the 90-minute interview (“Oprah’s Next Chapter”) will be “no-holds-barred” and will air at 8 PM (Austin time) next Thursday (January 17th) on the Oprah Winfrey Network and will be simulcast on Oprah.com. (That’s channel 225 on Time Warner Austin.) It’s hard to imagine Oprah getting on her jet to fly to Austin without a guarantee of a full confession from Armstrong who won’t be paid for the appearance and has no editorial control. According to Dan Wuori of Velo Magazine, Armstrong will spill the beans to Oprah. Said Wuori, “I think what we are seeing here is the beginning of Lance’s efforts at redemption. More and more continues to come about Armstrong. This seems like an effort of Armstrong to get ahead of the story and control the narrative.” Hopefully, that narrative includes coming totally clean and telling the unvarnished truth.
  • Armstrong had better hurry because it seems like every day more allegations come out. The latest comes from the head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency who says that one of Armstrong’s reps tried to make a donation of $250,000 to the agency before the agency launched its investigation in a thinly disguised bribe attempt. Travis Tygart, the head of the anti-doping agency, told 60 Minutes Sports that the offer was made in 2004 and immediately rejected because “it was a clear conflict of interest.” Tygart also said the agency went back and tested six urine samples from Armstrong’s first Tour de France win in 1999 and all the samples tested positive for the banned substance EPO. (The test for EPO was not available in 1999.) Tygart also said he was threatened by one of Armstrong’s representatives and feared for his life. Armstrong’s attorney, who must be sick of issuing denials, denied the alleged $250,000 contribution.
  • If it’s possible, the Bev Kearney affair just keeps getting worse. Kearney, the former UT women’s track coach who resigned on Saturday after admitting to having a consensual sexual relationship in 2002 with a runner on her team (and not reporting it), isn’t sitting still. Kearney took to the national airwaves (ABC and CNN) this week to defend herself and said she was “shocked” when the relationship with the athlete, who is now 30, was revealed.  “Right now, I’m in complete survival mode,” Kearney told ABC News.  But her lawyer—Derek A. Howard—is in full attack mode. He told ABC that he believes the timing of the revelation by the former runner is “suspicious.” He said, “Bev had been offered a substantial $150,000 per year raise, to a five-year contract. That was in the works and I think it’s fair to say that this woman was put up to it by some other person, for the reason that the individual who put her up to it was resentful that Bev was being offered this. We can’t say what evidence there is of that. But we can say it seems remarkable, let’s say coincidental, the exact timing this report came out of the blue when the athletic council was recommending that Bev be promoted and offered a raise.” Think I smell a lawsuit.
  • How big is Leo Manzano in the ATX? He was doing a 10-mile workout on the Butler Hike and Bike Trail on Saturday and afterward, half of Austin runners tweeted that he passed them. Leo the Lion didn’t pass me, but when I was finishing up my long run he was cooling down and told me he wasn’t going to run any indoor meets this winter (too much of an injury risk) and was planning to go up to altitude again in Mexico to build for the outdoor season.
  • Leo won’t be running in either the Boston Indoor Grand Prix the USA Indoors or the Millrose Games in New York, but all three meets will be televised. The New Balance Indoor meet in Boston will be televised live on ESPN3 on February 2nd and also shown the next day on ESPN2 from 1-3 p.m. The famed Millrose Games will be televised live on ESPN3 on February 16th and show again on February 17th on ESPN2 from 7-9 p.m. The USA Indoor Champs in Albuquerque will be carried live on Universal Sports on March 2 from 5-7 p.m. The final day of the meet will be televised live on NBC Sports Network on March from 3-5 p.m.
  • BTW: The Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half will be streamed live on Sunday by ABC KTRK. Go to the website www.abc13.com for coverage.
  • Cute couple of the month? Former Austinites Parker Stinson (Cedar Park) and Ashley Maton (Westlake). Ashley is a redshirt freshman at the University of Oregon, while Parker is a junior and one of the many stars of the team. Over the Christmas vacation, he visited Ashley and her family at their home in Bend, Oregon. Ashley’s mother, Michelle, is a former NCAA champion who ran for Indiana University.
  • Not sure why this should be a surprise, but, according to a new study in “Gait and Posture”, almost all new runners are heel strikers. In the Danish study, 903 new runners were tested on a treadmill wearing conventional shoes and 97 percent of the men were rearfoot strikers and 99.3 percent of the women. The rest were either midfoot or forefoot strikers. One of the authors of the study, Michael Berletsen, said he felt the studies might have been different if the subjects wore minimalist shoes, rather than conventional running shoes. “Studies have shown runners to be more likely to forefoot or midfoot strike when wearing minimalist shoes. But to my knowledge it has not been proven that forefoot or midfoot strike is more effective than rearfoot strike.”
  • What I’m listening to this morning: “Privateering,” the great new double album by my favorite Mark Knopfler.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

The other night, right in the middle of yet another meaningless bowl game, I switched over to ESPN2 before I passed out from boredom.  There, I was immediately jolted by another great “30 on 30” documentary. Called “9.79” this doc examined the rivalry between Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis, the buildup to the epic 1988 Olympic 100-meter final and all the associated fall out from the first high profile drug bust.

As I was watching this riveting examination of sprinting and the drug culture of the 1980’s which, by the way, is available in its entirety on You Tube, I was flooded with my own memories of the ’88 Seoul Olympics.

In Seoul, the track competition didn’t start for a week or so after Opening Ceremonies so I had plenty of time to poke around. I’ll never forget stumbling onto some practice track and standing a few feet away from Carl Lewis, resplendent in a silver outfit, who was having a hissy fit, directed at Russ Rogers, one of the Olympic coaches, about the order of the 4 x 100-meter relay team. As the documentary shows, Lewis was under intense pressure to defend his ’84 Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters and in Seoul he had reached his boiling point.

The next day I was invited by a couple of Canadian runners I knew—Lynn and Paul Williams– to a closed team practice. Paul, a 10,000-meter runner who had been on Ben’s track team in Toronto as a teenager, said, “You have got to come and check out Ben. You won’t believe it when you see him.”

Believe it. I walked into the practice with Lynn and Paul and nobody challenged me. There were only a couple of Canadian journalists at the track and when Johnson showed up, we moseyed over to where he was pulling on his spikes. He then shed his tights and with a theatrical flourish, removed his team jacket to a collective gasp.

I have never seen a more ripped track athlete in my life. His shoulders looked like they had been blown up by a pump and his six-pack looked like a 12-pack. His muslces had grown muscles. But what was especially unnerving was a distinct yellowish tinge to his eyes.

A few days later in the 100-meter final, Johnson obliterated Carl Lewis (in 9.79, a world “record” in what is now considered the dirtiest race in Olympic history. Unbelievably, of the eight finalists, five either later tested positive for performance-enhancement drugs and/or supplying drugs. Only Calvin Smith, who was fourth and Robson DaSilva of Brazil, who was sixth, never tested positive. Lewis was presumed to be clean, but we now know that wasn’t the case at all.

Of course, Lewis was awarded the gold medal after Johnson was DQ’ed 55 hours later. Lewis must have had a clean sample in Seoul, but he sure didn’t at the Olympic Trials in June in Indianapolis where he tested positive for stimulants and was secretly handed a 12-week suspension. But that suspension was later overturned by the US Olympic Committee because he supposedly inadvertently took a banned substance in an herbal remedy.

Lewis certainly wasn’t alone as at least two other American gold medalists in Seoul—Joe DeLoach in the 200 and Andre Phillips in the 400 hurdles—also tested positive. If possible, the American women were even dirtier as Florence Griffin Joyner (her nickname among the media in Seoul was FloJuice) made a mockery of the sprints. Every other women’s race in Seoul was won by a drug cheat.

That’s old news. But, as the ESPN documentary shows, Lewis shouldn’t have been allowed to run in the ’84 Olympics either. At those Trials, he also tested positive, but the USOC whiffed on those charges too.

The most fascinating aspect of the ESPN documentary was Ben Johnson’s contention that his postrace urine sample had been tampered with. Every drug cheat has some excuse as Johnson says the operative word is deny, deny, deny. Johnson later admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs but not the one—Stanozol–that had been detected in Seoul.

In the documentary, Joe Douglas, who founded and ran the Santa Monica TC, admitted that he somehow got one of its lackeys into the Seoul drug-testing room with Johnson which is not allowed. There, Johnson says, that guy dropped three pills into his post-race beer which he contends contaminated his sample and is what got him DQ’ed. The guy who allegedly did that wouldn’t speak on camera to ESPN, but his comment off-camera on the documentary was pretty damning. “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t,” he said.

Anyway, this documentary is definitely worth a look see. The intrigue and deceptions are all documented and clearly show what a filthy sport track once was.

****

  • In the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was a flood of stories about marathon prodigies as young as five years old. There was even a world age group record for someone as young as four. The backlash came a few years later and many labeled young children who were allowed and encourage to run marathons as victims of child abuse. Gradually, most marathons banned young children and followed the Boston Marathon model which instituted a minimum age requirement of 18 years old. (The Livestrong Austin Marathon “discourages” anyone under 16 running either the marathon or half.) But a new study published in “Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise” suggests that minimum age requirements don’t have any medical basis. The researchers drew blood from about 50 teenage marathoners (ages 13-17) before, immediately after and 24 hours after they had run a marathon. The post-race changes the researchers found such as decreased hemoglobin and hematocrit caused by a reduction in blood plasma and an increase in the white blood count were just abut the same for any marathoner. “The presented findings indicate that well trained and educated adolescent marathoner runners are not at risk to develop clinically significant electrolyte or haematological  changes,” the researchers said. Other medical experts agree that there’s no evidence that running marathons while undergoing puberty is any more harmful than it is for adults.
  • Both the 3M Half Marathon (January 13th) and the Livestrong Marathon and Half Marathon (February 17th) are filling up rapidly. The 3M Half has about 1000 spots left before it reaches its 7000-runner cap and the Livestrong Marathon and Half are both about 70 percent full at this point. The Half typically closes before the marathon does.
  • San Antonio attorney Larry Macon ended up the year doing just what you’d expect—running yet another marathon. The 68-year-old ran something called the Texas Savage Seven Marathon on New Year’s Eve to give him 153 marathons for the year. His previous best was 113 last year.
  • Belated congrats to Stephan and Illiana Schwarze on the birth of their son Pablo on December 2nd. Stephan, one of the top age group triguys in Austin, says his son is a “true Germexican.” That is, Stephan is a native of Germany and Illiana grew up in Mexico City.
  • Construction is well underway for the new bathrooms on the west edge of the Austin HS parking lot, across the street from The Rock. When completed, the four restrooms will be a welcome relief from the decrepit bathroom in the parking lot that serves so many runners.
  • “Women’s Health Magazine” listed the 10 best nature trails for running in America and our own Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake was listed as number four. Women’s Health described our trail as “the perfect place to train for a triathlon—or just to do a lot of different activities. From running around the town lake (sic.) to biking around Zilker Park to even going for a swim in the water of Barton Springs, this is the place to train. You’ll get 10 miles of working out.”
  • What I’m listening to this morning: “The Mystery,” by Aussie guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

OK, I got the RunTex to RunTex New Year’s Day course totally wrong. (It isn’t the first time I’ve made a mistake.) But after all these years of running from Gateway back to the RunTex mothership on Riverside, I assumed everything was status quo.

Not so.

For the first time, the RunTex to RunTex run will just be the New Year’s Day Run and instead of going on the traditional (and beloved) north-to-south course, the run will be a big, 13-mile loop which will start and finish at the RunTex (422 W. Riverside).

The course will head west along the Butler Trail and then pick up Lake Austin Boulevard and follow the beautiful Scenic Loop up to Mount Bonnell where it will turn around (feel free to go up the steps the Mount Bonnell summit.) The return will come down Balcones to Perry Lane and then back along Bull Creek. After crossing Jefferson, Bull Creek turns into 38th Street. Follow that and upon the approach to the Shoal Creek Bridge, you take the trail on the southside of 38th  on the west side of the creek. From there, simply take that trail back to Lady Bird Lake.

Everything else stays the same (except the need to carpool up north). The run begins at 9 a.m. Afterward, there are refreshments (and the traditional black-eyed peas) back at RunTex.

Everyone is invited, no entry fees, no numbers. Come and run. Hangovers are welcome. There isn’t a better way to start the new year than with a run with friends and family.

*****

  • What a fascinating year it’s been for runners in the ATX. The big races got bigger. Most of the smaller races survived. A new venue—Circuit of the Americas—promises great things for the road racing, cycling and triathlon community. Just the one race—the Formula Run—was held this year but many more events are expected to be held there in the future. Top runners such as Scott MacPherson, David Fuentes, Allison Macsas, Betzy Jimenez, Scott Rantall, Tia Kool, Erik Stanley, Ali Mendez all had great years. As did such top masters as Scott McIntyre, John LaClaire, Nancy Dasso, Carmen Troncoso, Cassie Henkiel and Michael Budde. Triathletes Amy and Brandon Marsh, Kelly Williamson, Patrick Evoe also had great seasons.
  • But the greatest achievement in 2012 by any Austin runner has to go to Paul Terranova. Last December at the Decker Challenge, Terranova told me his ’12 goals: He planned to run all four of the 100-mile ultramarathon classics (Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch) and top it off with finishing the Hawaii Ironman Championships.  And he did it. By doing so, Terranova became the first athlete to complete all those races in a single calendar year. Piece of cake.
  • The most noteworthy Austin runner was—of course—our own Lance Armstrong whose rapid fall from grace can only be compared with such former legends as Roger Clemens, Pete Rose, Tiger Woods and another Austinite, Marion Jones. You can add Suzy Favor Hamilton to that list now after the three-time Olympian admitted last week to being a high priced Las Vegas escort.
  • Lance’s rough year just got even worse (if possible) last week. Adding to his long list of woes, the former cyclist is now being sued for $1.5 million by the British newspaper, The Sunday Times. Armstrong sued the newspaper eight years ago after it raised numerous questions about his Tour de France victories following his recovery from testicular cancer. Armstrong settled that suit in 2006 and the paper paid him $485,000. Now The Sunday Times wants that money back in the wake of Armstrong’s refusal to contest the USAnti-Doping Agency charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The newspaper wants its money back as well as interest, plus the costs it accrued defending itself.
  • Meanwhile, Suzy Hamilton has been dropped by every one of her sponsors, just as quickly as Armstrong’s did. Last week, Hamilton was ditched by all the Disney racing events as well as all the Rock ‘n’ Roll races she represented and spoke at. Foot Locker dumped her too and so did the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.
  • Hamilton’s salacious admission quickly made her an internet sensation and last week I was asked many times whether I knew the former Wisconsin All American who ran professionally for Reebok and Nike. Actually, I knew Suzy quite well as she was one of the most friendly, accessible runners in track. She was also one of the most attractive runners in track and, understandably, used her wholesome good looks as one of her assets. That caused plenty of jealously among some of the women, including most notably her primary 1500-meter rival, Regina Jacobs, who constantly sniped at her. BTW: Jacobs retired from track in 2003 after being suspended for drug use.
  • One of the delights of the Holiday Season is the resurfacing of old friends. The other day I heard from former British Olympian Jill Hunter who, at one point, set the world road records for 10 miles and 20-K. She and I were good friends many years ago, but we lost track of each other. She’s now married to former Australian marathoner Danny Boltz and they live in Clifton Beach in Queensland, near the city of Cairns. The couple now has three children and Hunter organizes a running program for local children.
  • What I’m listening to this morning: “High and Mighty” by Gov’t Mule. Not exactly Christmas music, but Warren Haynes always works for me.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

Although we all have different ways of celebrating, traditions are what’s really important about the Holidays. Not how we celebrate or what we celebrate, but the fact that most of us celebrate something that matters is what counts.

For me, the only two things that truly count are my family and running. And thankfully, they are not entirely exclusive of each other.

Anyway, my Holiday running centers around three traditional runs.

O Christmas Ridge Run. On Saturday, a big group of us get together for our annual Christmas Ridge Run. Not sure who started this tradition, but it brings together three or four different clumps of friends who train together for a 20-miler over just about every huge hill in Austin. We head straight north from The Rock and climb Stratford, Scenic, Pecos and Mount Bonnell which is just the warm up for such monsters as Lookout Mountain, Mesa, Far West and Ladera Norte. There’s a bunch of steep, smaller ones thrown in for good measure but fortunately the back half of the run is mostly downhill.

With a wide disparity of runners, the large group splinters off into different levels of seriousness. For some, it’s the longest run of the year; for others, it’s just another long run. But the best part is when we all make it back and adjourn to someone’s house for the post-run breakfast.

O Christmas Morning Run. This one doesn’t really have a formal name, but many of the same friends who do the Ridge Run get together in the Austin HS parking lot for a Christmas morning five-mile run around the Capitol. Like the Ridge Run, it’s a go-as-you-come run along the Hike and Bike Trail and then up and down Congress back to the parking lot. Plenty of non-runners join in too and walk a couple of miles. The colder, the better.

After finishing, everyone breaks out their breakfast goodies and spreads them out in the bed of a few pick-ups. The unquestioned highlight of the morning are the Christmas tamales. After a quick toast of champagne and/or mimosas and a few group photos, everyone hightails it home.

O RunTex to RunTex. This  New Year’s Day favorite has been going on for—I think—18 years. It’s about 13 miles long and goes from the Gateway Shopping Center parking lot (in front of REI) at about 9 a.m. on a mostly downhill course to the RunTex mothership on Riverside. RunTex to RunTex has grown so much over the years that last year there were at least 150 runners who braved the frigid weather for the run. Afterward, everyone gathers in RunTex for the traditional black-eyed peas and a toast or two. No registration, RSVP or much of anything is necessary. There’s also a six-mile option for those who don’t want to go the entire way, but you have to arrange for transportation.

For me, there’s no better way to start Christmas morning or the New Year.

*****

  • The first big race of the new year is the 3M Half Marathon on January 13th. One of the best, fastest half marathons in the country, 3M has upped its cap for the 2013 to 7000. But, it is closing in rapidly on reaching its capacity. Already, more than 5300 have registered and the race will probably close before the end of the year. If you plan to run the north-to-south, mostly downhill course, get on the stick and register before yhou’re left out.
  • If you were registered to run the New York City Marathon in November, the New York Road Runners announced yesterday you can get a full refund or a guaranteed entry in any one of the next three NYC Marathons. But, if you choose the guaranteed entry option into any of the 2013-2015 races, you’ll still have to pay an entry fee. Registration for the ’13 race, which was set to open on December 12, is still on hold as the NYRRC still hasn’t announced how the lottery will work because of the unprecedented numbers of ’12 runners as well as other issues.
  • Larry Macon, the San Antonio lawyer, broke his own record last week by running his 139th marathon (still counting) in a single calendar year. Actually, Macon ran 139 races of 26.2 miles or longer this year. I don’t know how or why he does it and I’m not sure I even care anymore, but already an Aussie from Canberra by the name Trent Morrow has announced he’ll try and break Macon’s record in 2013. That will be especially difficult if for no other reason, the travel Morrow will have to do. “The majority of the races will be in the U.S. And that comes with its own challenge,” says Morrow. “Australians only have a tourist visa capacity of 90 days.” Regardless, Morrow will begin his quest on New Year’s Day and says he’ll be wearing a “Marathon Man” costume, complete with a cape.
  • Texas State Rep Eddie Rodriguez has partnered the Fiesta de Independencia Foundation and Seton Healthcare Family which will work together to help fund Marathon High. In its first year, Marathon High is an after school running program for middle and high school students designed to teach healthy lifestyles. Sixteen students from Ann Richards School and East Memorial High enrolled in the Marathon High program, finished the Decker Challenge two weeks ago and are planning to run the Rogue 30-K on January 27th in preparation for the final test: the Livestrong Austin Marathon on February 17th.
  • Do you take ibuprofen before running or prior to a race? Many runners do, theorizing that the anti-inflammatory painkillers can reduce pain during the run and prevent muscle soreness afterward. This theory has been debunked time and time again and yet runners persist with taking over-the-counter ibuprofens as if they were jelly beans. A new study proves once again that not only doesn’t it do any good to take iobuprofen before a run or a race, but doing so can damage the intestines. The most common side effect of taking NSAIDs is gastrointestinal damage, but taking them regularly before exercise not only doesn’t prevent muscle soreness, it may exacerbate it. Says Dr. David C. Neiman (an ultramarathoner) of Appalachian State who conducted the study: “The idea is just entrenched in the athletic community that ibuprofen will help you to train better and harder. But that belief is simply not true. There is no scientifically valid reason to use ibuprofen before exercise and many reasons to avoid it.” To repeat: Taking Advil before a run doesn’t help.
  • Pro trigal Kelly Williamson had her greatest year in 2012 with three major 70.3 wins and a second in the 70.3 World Champs. One of the fastest women on the run, Kelly was expecting big things at the Iron World Championships in Kona in October, but wilted on the bike (her weakest link) and was a non-factor in 9:47 (15th) which was even worse than her disappointing 13th of the year before in Kona.  Said Williamson who has an Ironman PR of 9:07, “I’m considering not going back to Kona next year. It’s hard to put so much into a race and not getting anything out of it. I’ve done Kona three times now and I might not go back again.” For her off-season break, Kelly ran (and won) three 5-K’s (Jingle Bell at The Domain, St. Judes Jingle Bell in New Braunfels and the Reindeer Run at Camp Mabry) and nailed a sub-17 minute time in the final one in 16:45 to cap off her terrific competitve year.
  • What I’m listening to this morning: “Greatest Hits, Volume 2” by the Beach Boys. They couldn’t perform worth a lick (trust me, saw them many times), but recorded many great albums, thanks to the genius of Brian Wilson.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

Austin has to be the only town in America where the loss of water jugs would merit front-page news. But Austin’s vibrant running community is so vast (and loud) that when the city temporarily revoked permission for RunTex, Rogue and Luke’s to place its coolers on the Butler Trail, runners howled in protest and have started an on-line petition to get the coolers back.

The city says the coolers are a safety issue, citing that if the coolers aren’t properly clean, there can be health issues transmitted through the water. Additionally, the Parks and Rec Department wants the water jugs to have lock-down lids (so nobody can tamper with the water) and it will also require the three running stores to have a permit to continue providing water on the trail.

Vincent Delisi, the assistant manager of environmental services at the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, told Pam LeBlanc of the Statesman that, “According to state law—not city—rules, water is a beverage, and a beverage is a food, and any food provided for human consumption must be permitted, even if it’s given away free.”

RunTex has been providing cold water in coolers at two key trail heads—The Rock (under MoPac) and next to the S. 1st. Street Bridge—for more than 20 years as a free service to Austin’s runners who have come to depend on those water stops. And when those coolers–as well as Rogue’s (near I-35) and Luke’s (near its store, just north of the trail, near Lamar)–disappeared a few weeks ago, runners were understandably miffed.

It may not look like it, but keeping those RunTex coolers filled with ice water and stacked with paper cups takes plenty of manpower—and has considerable expense. I figured out a few years ago that RunTex, when factoring in paying for the guys to truck in water,  absorbed about $30,000 a year in costs to keep the water flowing on the trail.

The recently installed 10 drinking fountains at The Rock have eased the water burden somewhat, but the city turns them off whenever it gets cold. And sometimes even when it’s not. For example, last weekend it was warm and humid and the fountains weren’t working. More fountains are planned along the trail, but most won’t be ready for a year or so.

Meanwhile, RunTex plans to go ahead with the permitting process to be able to service thirsty Austin runners with tamper-proof coolers.

BTW: You can probably express your concerns to our approachable, friendly Mayor as he walks the trail every Sunday morning.

****

  • I was laid low by the flu last weekend and never made it to Dallas for the half marathon, but Andrew Letherby of Austin—a sales rep for New Balance—won the half marathon in the steamy weather in 1:09:45. Letherby, a native of Australia, won the Thundercloud Turkey Trot a couple of weeks ago. In the marathon, plenty of Austinites ran well, including the women in the 45-49 age group. Jennifer Fisher was first in 3:14:18, followed by Vicki Mechling in 3:28:22 and Nancy Dasso in fifth in 3:35:08. David Fuentes, who dropped out of Sacramento the week before, finished in 2:31:45.
  • Up in College Station, the husband and wife duo of Jacob and Hellen Rotich won the BCS Marathon. Jacob took top honors in 2:39:20 (Marc Bergman was third in 2:50:54 and Zerihun Ayele was 11th in 3:12:04). Hellen won the women’s division in 2:47:49 with Erin Ruyle of Georgetown third in 3:19:29. The half was won by Johnathan Lejerne in 1:16:08, while Allison Macsas of Austin easily won the women’s division in 1:24:41.
  • The San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon has been plagued with its fair share of miserable raceday weather. The first year of the race (2008) was ideal and 2010 wasn’t too bad, but the other three races have been hampered by early fall heat and humidity. Rock ‘n’ Roll officials never seemed particularly interested in moving the date back, but finally relented after city manager Sheryl Sculley, an experienced marathoner who was the point person for bringing the race to San Antonio in the first place, asked for a different date. Although the 2013 race had been scheduled for November 17th, it has been moved to December 8th which should have cooler temps. (If San Antonio had moved to the later date this year, the weather still would have been tough.)  Also, there will be major changes to the course for 2013 to accommodate road construction. Unfortunately, San Antonio’s new race date will probably collide with the expected race dates for the Decker Challenge and the Dallas Marathon although Dallas moves to a later date every few years to accommodate a downtown convention.
  • More Rock ‘n’ Roll: Because of the San Antonio switcheroo, the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll will essentially switch places with San Anton. Vegas, which was held two weeks ago, will now move to November 17th for 2013.
  • In case you’re wondering what New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has been doing with all his free time during his one-year suspension from the NFL, evidently he’s been running. Payton, who still lists Irving as his residence, ran the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in a creditable time of 2:18:32.
  • Another running celeb who recently completed his first marathon is ’08 Olympic gold medal decathlete Bryan Clay who ran last weekend’s Honolulu Marathon with his wife Sarah in 4:46:31. Said Clay, “It was a beast. Since I was running with my wife, I wasn’t trying to be competitive. If I had, it would have hurt real bad.”
  • At the USATF National Cross-Country Club Championships last weekend in Lexington, Kentucky, Carmen Troncoso, 53, placed ninth overall among the masters women in the 6-K in a time of 23:48. In the open women’s race, Tia Kool led the Rogue women by finishing 18th in 21:02. Her Rogue teammates Juliane Masciana were 24th in 21:10 and Ali Mendez 25th in 21:11. Sara Madebach was 37th in 21:28 and Mariko Neveu was 38th in 21:30. The Rogue women placed fourth overall.
  • Looking for that perfect gift for the running geek on your Christmas list? Look no further than buying that very special someone the perfect gift: Steve Prefontaine’s 1971 Datsun 240Z. Pre, who died in 1975 in a single car crash (an MGB) in Eugene, evidently owned another car which is for sale on eBay. The car, which has California plates and has 90,000 miles on it, has had 25 bids with the highest of $15,400. Don’t know if this is authentic or not, but the vehicle ID lists Steve R. Prefontaine of Elrod Street in Coos Bay, Oregon. (Pre’s middle name was Roland and he did live on Elrod in Coos Bay.) If that isn’t enough, the original Batmobile (circa 1966) will be auctioned off on January 19th  at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is expected that the Batmobile (complete with Bat Phone) will go for several million dollars which takes it off my gift list.
  • There are a few minor course changes in store for the 3M Half Marathon on January 13th. The starting line is a little farther north on Stonelake Boulevard to handle the extra 1500 runners who are expected for this year’s race. The first three miles of the course are the same, but along Burnet, instead of going down to Industrial Terrace, it makes a left turn into Business Drive before getting back on last year’s course at Business Drive and then heading down Shoal Creek to Northcross Mall. No big deal. Neither is the change to the last mile. Because it’s move-in day at UT for the new semester, 3M has to bypass the campus. So after coming down Duval and its beautiful downhill, the course bangs a left at Dean Keaton and then right onto Red River up to the finish in front of the Bob Bullock Museum at MLK and 18th, just north of the Capitol.
  • What I’m listening to this morning: “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.

Heard Around The Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip

  • Starting some time next week, a quarter-mile stretch of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake will close for about six months. The fenced off section on the trail is on the north side between San Antonio Street and the section that juts out into the lake at Shoal Creek, across Cesar Chavez from the Seaholm Power Plant. The closed section will also include the small footbridge that connects the trail to the shore. Runners, walkers and cyclists will be temporarily rerouted onto Cesar Chavez which means the narrow, rocky along the road will get extra heavy use. Closing down the section of the trail is necessary because city officials believe that the section is crumbling because of the erosion. The city construction crews will fence off the section and begin to shore up the area with boulders.
  • More Trail news. In case you haven’t been on the far east side of the trail on the south shore along Lakeshore, construction is well underway on the 1.25-mile boardwalk that will connect the gap in the trail and bypass I-35. Crews are currently building a dock on the lake that will support the construction of the $21 million boardwalk which is expected to be completed in spring of 2014.
  • Big race weekend. In addition to the 34th running of the Decker Challenge out  at the Travis County Expo Center, plenty of Austin runners are headed either to Dallas for the Dallas Marathon and Half or to College Station/Bryan for the BCS Marathon and Half. This is just the second year for the BCS races and the half is full at 2750 runners, while the marathon will have about 1200 more. Dallas is expecting at least 20,000 for its marathon, half and relay on yet another redesigned course.
  • BTW: David Fuentes, who dropped out of the deluge and wind tunnel that was the Cal International Marathon on Sunday, is running the Dallas Marathon this Sunday. Fuentes, who was shooting for a 2:15-2:16 in Sacramento, shut down after only eight miles in the terrible conditions and eventually pulled over at 14 so he said he hasn’t had any recovery issues on such a short turnaround for Dallas.
  • Quinn Carrozza, the 16-year-old daughter of Paul and Shiela Carrozza, swam in the AT&T Winter Nationals at UT last weekend. Quinn made it to the finals of the 200-yard freestyle on Saturday afternoon and finished seventh in 1:45.67 to all-world Missy Franklin’s winning 1:42.42. Carrozza was also third in the ‘B” finals of the 200 breakstroke in 1:55.39.
  • Conley Sports is cornering the market on winter-spring races. In addition to its Livestrong Austin Marathon, Conley Sports is directing the Capitol 10,000 as well as the 3M Half Marathon. John Conley announced this week that his group has added to its portfolo with the St. James Missions 5-K on March  30th . One of the few races in east Austin, the St. James 5-K will start at St. James Missionary Baptist Church (3417 E. MLK Boulevard) and benefit the Alzheimer’s Association and the St. James Wellness Ministry.
  • Still, no word from the 40 Acres on the reason for the suspension of long-time UT women’s head track coach Bev Kearney. But, according to documents released by Texas unera public records request by the Associated Press, women’s AD Chris Plonsky wrote school president Bill Powers on September 24th requesting a substantial raise for Kearney and calling her a key mentor and leader. But a month later, the contract was removed from the agenda for an upcoming regents meeting and then on November 11, Plonsky suspended Kearney with pay to investigate issues within the program which have not been publicly disclosed. Kearney, who has been at UT for 21 years and won six national titles, is one of the most respected coaches in the country. If her proposed contract would have been approved, she would have been paid $397,000 for 2012-13, plus a $25,000 longevity bonus. According to the records released, in Kearney’s 2010-2011 performance review, Plonskey rated her “outstanding” and a “gift to UT.”
  • The sale of the Competitor Group has finally come to fruition. Competitor, which bought out Elite Racing five years ago and its roster of Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons for $42 million, has been sold to the tune of $250 million to Calera Capital, another private equity company. The Competitor Group, which owns and operates 83 events world wide as well as five magazines and a digital registration platform, has been on the auction block for nine months and 32 entities bid on the company, including Madison Square Garden Co. and Tour de France operator Amaury Sport. In Texas, there are two Rock ‘n’ Roll races (Dallas and San Antonio) and a Rock ‘n’ Roll triathlon in Austin.
  • Yes, that really was 2012 Olympians Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi flying by on the Butler Hike and Bike Trail on Wednesday morning. Both are in town for the The Running Event at the Austin Convention Center. Other running celebs here this week are ultramarathoners Anton Krupicka and Scott Jurek, tristud Andy Potts and marathon guru Jerff Galloway.
  • Also Wednesday morning was the Indie 5-K for The Running Event participants at Zilker Park. Fastest retailer was national-class road runner Bobby Mack of Capital RunWalk in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mack won in 14:22. Erin Richard of Hansons Running in Michigan won the women’s division in 16:42. Some of the other studs who ran included Andrew Letherby (New Balance), Austin’s husband-wife coaching duo of Derick and Kelly Williamson (Kelly ran 16:56), former US Olympian Todd Williams (Sign Me Up) and Keith Dowling (Sign Me Up).
  • Some former Austinites in town for The Running Event included Mason Reay (Nuun), Carson Caprara (Brooks), Raul Najera (RunFar) and Dave Moody (Core Running).
  • Leo (The Lion) Manzano will lead a group of Olympians who will host a free track-and-field clinic for middle and high schoolers on Thursday (today!) at the Austin HS track at 5 p.m. Joining Leo at Austin HS, will be shot putter Adam Nelson, high jumper Amy Acuff  (who lives in Austin) and Amy Yoder-Begley.
  • Newest marathon on the Texas calendar is The Army Marathon on April 21st. The event, which will run from Killeen to Temple, is being staged to honor American soldiers on the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. The point-to-point race will start at the Killeen Convention Center and follow mostly country roads to the finish at the Temple Bioscience Center. There’s a  net elevation loss of 273 feet on the course.Danny Spoonts just certified the course last weekend. For more info, go to wwwthearmymarathon.com.
  • What I’m listening to this morning: “Wildflower,” by Tom Petty. Never sure why this album was considered a solo effort since the Heartbreakers played on it, but it’s still one of his/their greatest.

Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to wish@runtex.com.