Gwako Surges, Mosqueda Smashes

John Gwako may have been a last-minute entry at the 3M Half-Marathon, but he was first across the finish line.

After dueling like a couple of prize fighters, trading surges along the course as the miles flew by, Gwako, a 25-year-old Kenyan, threw in a one final surge Sunday to win the 10th annual race in 1 hour, 2 minutes and 15 seconds while American Sylvia Mosqueda shattered her own women’s record, lopping nearly a minute off the mark with a time of 1:09:53. The two winners each earned $1,200.

Ideal conditions — temperatures in the mid 50s and clear skies — greeted the field of more than 4,000 runners, but with the U.S. Olympic marathon trials looming in two weeks, the elite men’s field was markedly smaller than in past years. Defending champion Andrew Letherby, who finished second Sunday, would have won easily were it not for the surprise appearance by Gwako at the eleventh hour.

Gwako said he learned Friday from his agent, Shawn Hellebuyck, "that I was going to run this race. I got right on the plane from Albuquerque."

According to Hellebuyck, Gwako was a replacement for a French runner who had a knee injury.

"I didn’t want to let down 3M’s race coordinator, Jon Andrews, so I asked John Gwako, who just arrived here from Kenya two weeks ago, if he would run," said Hellebuyck, the wife of 2001 3M champion Eddy Hellebuyck.

"He wasn’t sure of his fitness level, but wanted to give it a shot."

Gwako, Letherby and American Teddy Mitchell — all Albuquerque-based runners represented by Shawn Hellebuyck — took the race out at just under a five-minute-per-mile pace, passing the two miles in 9:44.

But Mitchell, who ran 1:03:57 last week at the Halliburton International Half Marathon in Houston, decided to hold back for the upcoming Olympic marathon trials Feb. 7 in Birmingham, Ala., and let the other two go.

Running stride for stride, Letherby and Gwako hit five miles in 23:45 and passed the 10-kilometer mark in a swift 29:29. The pair traded surges, but neither could break away.

Heading down the gentle slope on Medical Arts Parkway, now averaging 4:45 per mile, the duo passed the 10-mile marker in 47:19, and it looked as though Andres Espinoza’s course record of 1:01:16 might fall.

On Guadalupe Street, just past 12 miles, Gwako made one final move. Letherby could not respond and settled for second in 1:02:32, a personal best, while Mitchell took third in 1:04:26.

"I never would have run this fast if John hadn’t shown up," Letherby said.

Gwako was just relieved to hit the finish line. "I was tired," he said. "I had trained hard earlier this week, not knowing that I would race."

There was no such drama in the women’s race. Defending champion Zivile Balciunaite of Lithuania was a no-show, and Mosqueda — who placed 12th in the New York Marathon in November — quickly settled into a 5:20-per-mile pace. "I threw in a 5:10 mile at mile five," she said. "When I saw my time was 26:20, I knew I was rolling."

Running far ahead of her nearest competitor, Mosqueda hit 10 miles in 53:30.

"At that point, I knew I just had to maintain my pace to break the record," the 37-year-old Los Angeles native said. "I was never hurting — the weather was perfect, and I liked that the course was rolling. Mosqueda finished more than 2 1/2 minutes ahead of second-place Dorata Gruca while running the fastest half marathon of her career. Gruca, of Poland, was timed in 1:12:35 while Nicole Kulikov of Fort Collins, Colo., grabbed third in 1:14:05.

"I have a tendency of being too timid," Mosqueda said. "I think I could have pushed it even harder. Next year I may shoot to break 1:09 here."

Lori Stich-Zimmerman of Cedar Creek, who along with Mosqueda has qualified for the U.S. Olympic women’s marathon trials, set a personal best of 1:15:51 while placing seventh. Her husband, Paul Zimmerman, won the men’s masters title in 1:09:02 while Austin’s Carmen Troncoso topped the female masters in 1:16:53.

Runners Use RunTex 30K Race as Marathon Stimulator

Gilbert Tuhabonye and Lori Stich Zimmerman, who won the men’s and women’s divisions at the RunTex 30K on Sunday in 1:45:48 and 1:54:31 respectively, both used the race as a training run-a sort of fitness gauge for major upcoming marathons. So did the approximately 1,100 other runners competing in the race, which featured near-perfect weather. It was the fifth event in the RunTex Distance Challenge, and the last real long-run outing of the series before Motorola on February 15.
The 3M Half-Marathon, the sixth race in the series, is on January 25th. Most runners will use that race as a final speed tune-up for the marathon.

However, it’s the 30K course, which starts and finishes at Hays High School in Buda, and covers 18.6 miles of hilly rural roads, which serves as the perfect dress rehearsal for the marathon distance. Here’s what runners had to say at the finish line.

"This is a great race for preparing for the marathon," said Tuhabonye, 29, an elite runner who is now training full-time. "It tells you where you are. It’s the longest race you’ll do before the marathon, and it shows you how far your body will hold up. I think the whole Distance Challenge is great for marathon training, and the 30K is the best. As a coach, I’d tell runners to use this race as a guide to let you know how to run in the final five weeks before Motorola. For example, today’s time should indicate whether you might need more speed, or more strength to achieve your marathon goal." Tuhabonye is hoping to run around 2:15 at Motorola and qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials.

"This was a check run for me to see where my fitness is," said Stich-Zimmerman, 33. "I haven’t been racing a lot, just training. I’ve been putting in up to 100 miles a week. I plan to run the 3M Half in two weeks as a final tune-up for before the women’s marathon trials, set for April 3 in St. Louis, Missouri. This course is perfect for marathon training because of its topography. I think that if you can maintain your marathon goal pace here, you’ll be able to do it for a whole 26.2 miles-maybe even faster at Motorola. I did slow a bit over the final 10K, between the wind and the hills."

"I was running to pace Lisa Spenner, who came in second in the women’s field," said Richard Mendez, 41 the third master’s runner in 1:59:09. "It was a great run. I just wanted to stay comfortable. It’s part of my Motorola build-up."

"This was my first time ever on this course," said Lucy Rojas, 28, who placed second in the 25-29 age division in 2:20. "I had gotten a lot of advice from other runners. I planned to take it easy for the first six miles, and then pick up the pace, and that’s exactly what I did. I ran around a 7:30 pace today, and that’s exactly what I hope to run at Motorola-maybe even faster, since Motorola is downhill."
Dave McLaughlin, 29, who ran a 2:26:54, said, "The last 5K really caught my attention, with the hills and the headwind. It took some mental toughness. I did better than I thought I would today, so I’m really excited about running Motorola."

"The wind was brutal as usual," said John Ferguson, 48. You always get it after 12 miles, on this course. I ran 2:22: 58, but I’m going to pay for it. I’m already sore."

Master Blaster

McIntyre Sets the Masters Standard

Disappointed in your running? Injured? Don’t give up. That’s the lesson 41-year old Scott McIntyre has learned over the past five years.

Scott McIntyre, a bond portfolio manager for First Southwest Asset Management, showed early promise as a freshman at Anderson High School back in the late 70s, clocking a 4:43 mile.

But like many young runners, he didn’t pursue the sport in college, and caught up in the fast track of career and family, didn’t run at all in his 20s.

"I basically took a 20-year hiatus from running," he said.

In 1997, a few years before turning 40, McIntyre joined Austin Fit, a marathon-training group for beginners. "I had a tough time even running the two-mile time trial they did to decide what group you run with," he said.

Apparently, some of the old speed remained though, because in 1998, McIntyre ran a 3:12 at the Motorola Marathon. However, he was sorely disappointed when he ran Boston later in ’99, barely making it to the finish in 3:36. "It was excruciating," he said. " I figured I’d quit after that."

But something nagged at him- the feeling that he still had a lot of improvement left. A week after the Boston debacle, he figured he’d give running another shot.

"That was turning point for me," he said. "I started training seriously. What really made a difference was adding interval workouts to my training."

In 2000 McIntyre broke the magic three-hour barrier for the marathon, dipping under with a 2:59:12 at Motorola."

"I was elated," he said. "I ran with a Runner’s World Pace Group on target for three hours. I stuck with the group the whole way."

In 2001, McIntyre again improved in the marathon, posting a 2:49 at Motorola. But then in 2002, his dedication to running was tested. Back injuries, Achilles tendon problems, and bouts of the dreaded plantar faciitis (pain in the heel) all but brought his running to a stop.

"There is nothing like being deprived of running to get you motivated to come back, though," he said. "I’ve learned that I have my limits. I understand that I have to cut back after marathon season to avoid injury. At that point, I spend a lot of time on the stationary bike. I probably don’t top 40 miles a week unless I’m doing a marathon buildup."

In late 2202 and early 2003 McIntyre was able to start training seriously again. Working with training buddy Floyd Watson, he built up to weekly speed sessions like 25 x 400 meters at 78 seconds each, and 10 x 800 at 2:40 each.

The workouts lifted McIntyre to a new level. He set a personal best of 1:16:30 at the 3M Half Marathon and 2:44:45 at Motorola in 2003, a time which earned him the number one spot for Central Texas masters.

He beat rival Richard Mendez for the top masters spot at the brutally challenging Bison Stampede Half-Marathon finishing1:22:45 to 123:39. "That surprised me," said McIntyre. "I hate humidity and I don’t care for hills, and Richard is a faster runner. It was probably a result of being rested and fresh."

And at the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in downtown Austin last Thursday McIntyre again won masters, running 5:52 per mile and clocking 29:17 to beat Mendez by four seconds.

"I don’t really feel like there’s any trick to running well but working hard," said McIntyre. "And I’ve learned that I can’t train year-round. You spend two to three months injured, and you learn. It’s about realizing what your limits are. I’m always surprised how fast I can get after coming back from a break."

Close to 2,000 Tackle Motive Bison Stampede

"The hills! The hills! The humidity! Yes, it was tough.

But massive hills and summer-like conditions didn’t stop close to 2000 runners from the Motive Bison Stampede Half-Marathon yesterday. 29-year old Peter Vail conquered the elements and the competition, winning the men’s race in 1:14:45, 15 seconds up on former training buddy Bjorn Ahlepil, of Sweden.

"It was one of the toughest runs I’ve done," said Vail, an Austinite who recently moved back here after a stint in Canada. "There were at least three to four giant hills, and I just didn’t get my pace back after those Plus, the weather here has been so warm and humid every time I’ve raced.

Just coming off an eighth place finish and personal best at the Columbus Marathon (October 19th) where he ran 2:26:39, Vail has been nearly unbeatable lately, with wins at the Race for the Cure 5K, Elgin Sausage 5K, and the Wurstfest Five Miler in New Braunfels last week.

"Today was my 60th race this year," said Vail. "But it’s my slowest half-marathon to date. "I’ve run 1:08, and feel that I’m in 1:07 shape right now. I’m aiming for the 3M Half Marathon, and then the Motorola Marathon.

Ahlepil, Jay Hilscher and Vail went through four miles in 21:30, a 5:20 pace, and five in 26:50. But the next mile, a terrific climb was 6:15. "It was crazy, but I dropped those guys, on that hill," said Vail.

"I was so tired, struggling up that hill," said Ahlepil. I was dead. But I recovered around mile eight. Hilscher caught me at around mile seven, and we ran together. I finally pulled away from Jay on the last mile, trying to catch Peter."

Hilscher closed hard nearly catching Ahlepil, taking third just eight seconds back in 1:15:08. Scott McIntyre was the master’s winner in 1:22:43.

Lisa Spenner, 28, who was age group ranked at number one in Texas for the marathon in 2003 easily outdistanced the women’s competition, holding a 6:18 pace through the hills to clock a 1:22:28. Spenner, who won her division in last year’s Austin American Statesman Capitol 10,000 (38:29) came in seven minutes ahead of ultra-distance runner Sara Pizzochero, a third grade teacher at Zilker Elementary. Ursula Hammes was first master and third overall in 1:41:34.

The event, now in it’s fourth year, raised close to $100,000 for Leukemia/Lymphoma, according to Karen Kattawar, co-director of the race. "This was probably our most successful event yet," said Kattawar.

Keeping with the race’s tradition, there was a spirited competition for "best water stop" featuring such hits as a MASH unit, a Matrix-themed stop, a Caribbean water stop, complete with a steel drum band. Runners voted at the races’ finish, and Matrix took home the honors. "We keep trying to make it better every year."

Motorola Pacesetters Taking Shape

2002 Motorola Marathon pacesetter Pavel Loskutov wins big in Seoul with a 2:09:15. His pace-setting partner in 2002 at the Motorola Marathon was Leonid Shvetsov who ran a solid 2:09:33 in Frankfurt, Germany earlier this year. Loskutov has a 2:08:53 PR and Shvetsov is still the Russian National Record Holder with his 2:09:16 PR. Both are Olympians. Race director John Conley is working on getting the men’s Texas state record below 2:10 in 2004. The women’s State record of 2:27:51 is pretty stout but he is working on cracking that one too.. He thinks the men’s record is vulnerable if the weather is good.

Governor Perry Issues Fitness Challenge

Austin is a city on the move. At any given time, the Town Lake hike and bike trails are buzzing with activity- a social hub for the thousands of runners getting in their daily miles. Even our governor, Rick Perry, is an avid runner, dedicated to his training routine.
Perry, who often competes in 5K and 10K events around town has issued a fitness challenge to all Texans. Cities, regions, and other organizations will compete against each other for the title of the "Fittest City / Region."

"It’s called the Lone Star Round Up 10K," said Paul Carrozza, who serves on the governor’s council on physical fitness. "We don’t have a Bolder Boulder, (Colorado) or a Peach Tree (AtlantaGeorgia)- a mega event, so that’s what we’re shooting for. There are 2.2 million runners in Texas, and we’d like to see 50,000 of them show up for the Lone Star Round up."
Set for April 17, the event is part of a physical activity festival, designed to "celebrate the fitness of Texans and educate Texans on the importance of physical activity in their daily lives."

Gillard, Hawkins Win The Uptown Classic 10K

The Uptown Classic 10K officially kicked off the seven-race marathon training build-up known as the RunTex Distance Challenge on Sunday morning, October 5.

Pre-race talk centered on a battle between Australia’s Kim Gillard, defending champ Gilbert Tuhabonye of Austin and Kenya’s Patrick Kiptum, but the showdown never materialized. Gillard ran unchallenged to win in 30 minutes, 25 seconds. Defending champ Jodi Hawkins (34:54) won the women’s race.

Gillard moved in front of Tuhabonye two minutes into the race, en route to a speedy 4:43 first mile. From that point, Tuhabonye faded into the distance. Gillard was on a sub-30 pace through three miles (14:15) but found the second half a bit slower.

The race, run entirely within IBM’s Burnet Road campus, turned out to be fairly difficult. "It’s actually quite a tough course," said Gillard, who trains in Boulder, Colo. "From 3.5 miles to five miles, you’re climbing the whole way."

Tuhabonye, the 2002 Austin American-Statesman Capitol 10,000 champ, finished second in 31:47. Master’s ace Paul Zimmerman was third in 32:03.

Hawkins, who has been carefully building back up to race form over the past three years after learning she had osteoporosis, set the women’s pace with a 5:22 first mile. Austin’s Cassandra Henkiel posted a 36:10 for second place. Julie Luft (40:42) took the master’s title.

Marathon to Marathon Should Have Unique Appeal

Runners looking for a different fall marathon might try heading west. There’s a new marathon set for October 11 that starts in Alpine, Texas and finishes in, what else- Marathon. They’re calling the event Marathon to Marathon or M2M for short, and it should be unlike any of the big Texas marathons people are used to.

For one thing, the course is out in the middle of nowhere. The idea began with Texas Agricultural Commissioner Susan Combs, whose ancestors helped found Marathon, a town of 500 in 1881. Part of Combs’ mission is to revitalize small, rural towns. The town, known as the "Gateway to Big Bend" is known for its scenic west Texas landscape.

"Obviously the name has some magic to it," said RunTex owner Paul Carrozza, an event sponsor. "And we’re hoping that with some exposure, the area, which is around 4,000 feet above sea level, may turn in to a kind of runners’ altitude training center for Texas."

"It starts basically on a dirt road, and then it hits Highway 90," said USATF course certifier John Ferguson, who measured the course two weeks ago. "You pretty much stick with 90 all the way to the historic Gage Hotel. The course, which starts at 4,200 feet and finishing at 3,800 has a net downhill drop of 400 feet. For the first 14 miles, there is a gentle climb, but you drop 600 feet in the last 12. It has potential to be fast. I don’t think the altitude will slow runners".

"It’s very remote-very few cars passed me when I was measuring it. I would think the unique beauty of the terrain would appeal to a lot of people. The area looks a lot like Big Bend-It’s probably about as close to mountains as Texas gets. It would be a great weekend staying at the Gage and running the race."

The event also includes a 10K race, a two-person relay, and a separate division called a Ride and Tie, where a two-person team can run half and bike half.

The race, which benefits Texas Diabetes Institute, calls for a $100 entry fee. At that price, some runners may balk. But the fee covers much more than the race number. There’s a bus ride from Austin out to Alpine included, a super shirt, a great dinner at the Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, and entertainment.

"It’s a $100 ticket, but if a runner signs up a buddy, two can go for $100," said Carrozza. "It’s an inaugural event, so we’re looking to get people out there."

Fisher Takes Third at Ironman Canada

When Austin’s Andrea Fisher arrived in Penticton, Canada two weeks ago to compete in Ironman Canada, her heart sunk. Fisher, an elite triathlete, must monitor air quality to compete in spite of her asthma. And Penticton’s air quality was bad. Horrendous, in fact. Forest fires had been raging throughout British Columbia, and the city’s air quality had deteriorated to extremely low ratings.

But Fisher’s preparation had been going unusually well. Workouts leading up to the race indicated she was in the shape of her life. Her whole season revolved around a peak effort in August, followed by a final peak for Ironman Hawaii in October.

With the forest fire just outside the race city of Kelowna, the event was nearly canceled. But race officials pulled it together, and the starting cannon fired at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 24, launching nearly 2,000 triathletes into the waters of Okanagan Lake.

Fisher, a former All-American swimmer for the University of Texas, and known throughout the triathlon world as an extraordinary swimmer, nailed down her trademark early lead, emerging from the Lake in the top five overall, nearly seven minutes up on the closest female, Canada’s Lisa Bentley.

Next came the big test: could she hold on to the lead during the 112-mile bike route, despite the threat of asthma being brought on by the smokey air?

Okanagan Falls, located 15 miles into the bike route had been on evacuation alert only one day before the race, and smoke still filled the area. Amidst water-bombing helicopters dousing the fire, the triathletes cycled on through.

"I’d been hitting the inhaler while cycling, so I never really had a full asthma attack," said Fisher. "But I certainly was not breathing at full capacity."

All endurance athletes must come to grips with their will to continue, and Fisher found herself in one of those internal conversations, talking herself out of dropping out.

"I think during every Ironman, you have thoughts about quitting," said Fisher It’s something you learn to deal with. There’s a big mental component to getting through the distance."

Leading the race, Fisher pushed as hard as she could, and headed into the run to face the final and most difficult leg.

"Since I typically build a big early lead, I often feel like I’m racing with a bulls-eye on my back," she said.

Sure enough, Canada’s Lisa Bentley, en route to a phenomenal 2:59 run, flew by at mile 7 of the marathon, and then Gillian Bakker, also of Canada caught her.

Fisher held on for third place, clocking a solid 9:51:20 effort.

"It was the toughest marathon battle I’ve ever had in an Ironman, but I’m really glad I did it," she said.

Ironman Canada qualified Fisher for the World Championships in Hawaii on October 18, where she last placed 13th in 1997.

In the final month before Hawaii, Fisher will put the finishing touches on her training build-up, throwing in a few more 5-hour rides, and two-plus hour runs during her 20-24 hour training weeks.

"I’d like to break the top 10 in Kona," said Fisher. I’m hoping for a 9:30 to 9:45 effort. At 31, I think I’ve come to understand how to race Ironman distances better. You’ve got to stay positive and pace yourself."

Race Review: Congress Avenue Mile

What a great day for a mile. While so many are sure it is easier to run a marathon than a mile or feel a mile is not long enough to bother with, over 200 stepped up to the line to test their speed and endurance.

While many races test your endurance, the mile is the combination of your endurance gained from all the miles and speed which is the fun part of running. As many coaches preach, speed is endurance.

The mile began with the open heat and weaved through the age groups to the elite heat at the end. As I watched the races from the rear view mirror of the beautiful Mercedes ML 320 which was provided by Mercedes Benz of Austin, I saw the same pattern, over and over.

The runner’s came off of the Capitol steps like a Skier out of the chute. The first quarter mile ranged from 52 second to 65 seconds for most runners. The next quarter mile, not quite as fast, but still a very pleasant, effortless experience. As the runner’s past 6th Street and made their way to the 3/4 mile mark, their world was changing. Time for the payback. Their times were starting to resemble their repeats on the track.

Their facial expressions changed as they saw their 3/4 mile time and saw the task ahead. The Bridge. As they say about paybacks, the final stretch lurking ahead. The race against the clock had just begun. Would they be able to keep any of the seconds they had put in the bank on the front half of the race or were they spent.

The last quarter mile, like the marathon’s last 10K, is the last half of the race.

Congrats to all those who took the plunge, you are a miler.