I have never been afraid to run any race, but there’s one aspect of road racing that absolutely terrifies me: It’s the race photos that appear in my inbox. I dread that inevitable email so much, yet can never quite resist the temptation to open it.
Clinically, the fear of having your photo taken is called camera phobia (seriously), but I don’t actually mind getting my picture taken during a race. It’s the resulting photos that I hate.
Let me explain. I realize that picture-perfect running form is not one of my strengths. Quite frankly, I suck. I’m a determined, persistent racer who can stubbornly hold onto a pace all day long, but fully realize that graceful, effortless running is just something I dream about.
Which is OK. I just don’t like having my lousy form shoved in my face. Or, on my computer.
Obviously, I can spare myself the agony and simply delete the email from the photo company, but it’s kind of like turning my head at the sight of a train wreck. I just have to look.
Determined to put an end to all this race-photo craziness, I had one goal in the Houston Half Marathon last month: To strike a pose and look as good as possible.
Brightroom Event Photography was shooting Houston and, as usual in major races, there were signs at various spots along the course, alerting the runners to look good for the photographers who were just up ahead.
Here was my chance to erase a lifetime of rotten race photos. When I spotted the first photo sign around the seven-mile mark, I immediately got up on my toes, repositioned my hat so it wouldn’t cast a shadow and painted a broad, toothy smile for the cameras.
Didn’t work. Must have started to pose too early because when the mid-race photo arrived, I looked, as always, terrible. There was snot hanging off my nose, my feet were going every which way but straight ahead and my skinny arms looked like they were pulling weeds. At least, my hat was on straight.
A few miles later, at the next photo stop, I tried a different tack. This time I got as much air as I could with a few loping strides, but the results were similar. Instead of capturing me gliding gracefully, the cameras caught me landing awkwardly. Not pretty.
Finally, on Allen Parkway and approaching the downtown Houston corridor, I still felt strong enough to pick up the pace in the last mile. Approaching the long straightaway to the finish area, I was determined for once to look triumphant, rather than crushed.
As I neared the photo bridge, I managed what felt like a sprint for the last 50 meters, secure in the knowledge that I had—finally–beaten the cameras with a strong, celebratory finish.
But, a few days later the email arrived from Brightroom with the same miserable images of me. In addition to the lousy shots of me flailing away on the course, it included a 30-second finish video. Every single runner in the clip looked great as they cruised through the finish, arms joyfully waving.
Me? Even though I had run well, the finish video captured me waddling across the line, looking like a boat that was ready to capsize.
My time was fine and nothing to be ashamed of, but the race cameras beat me again and consigned me to the clumsy plodder division. Cameras never lie.
Fortunately, there are no style points in road racing. I might not have stuck the landing in Houston, but running is a bottom-line sport. You are what you run. Nothing more, nothing less.
My race photos might not look like much, but the results and satisfaction of finishing are always so much sweeter.
O Chris Cotten, the former McNeil and Austin HS teacher and track coach, pleaded guilty yesterday to having indecency with a child and having an improper relationship between a teacher and student. Cotten, 42, received a three-year sentence. He was arrested last April after a 16-year-old student told Williamson County deputies that Cotten had sent her photos of his genitals and claimed that he had touched her inappropriately. Before McNeil, Cotten began teaching math and coaching track at Austin HS in 1997. Three years later AISD recorded that he had “a highly inappropriate conversation” with a 14-year-old student and should be fired. But he wasn’t. Instead, Cotten resigned and later taught in Pflugerville before going to McNeil in 2004.
O The sadly similar case of Timo Sheard, the former Cedar Park HS track and cross-country coach and teacher, who has been arrested and charged with three counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact, still has not been resolved. Sheard, who coached for 17 years at Cedar Park and was a familiar figure at local road races, has reportedly moved to Houston. No court date has been set yet for him.
O Tons of Austinites headed up I-35 last weekend to Fort Worth for the steamy Cowtown Marathon and Half. The best of the locals went to Adam Waldum of Cedar Park, who works at Rogue, finished third overall in the marathon in 2:33:10. Second fastest Austinite was Blair Kuhnen who finished in 3:23:19 to place fifth in his 50-54 division. Occasional Austinite Claire Secker was third in her 60-64 age group in 4:41. In the half, Beau Clements had the fastest time (1:28:36) among the Austin contingent, good for fifth in his 30-34 group. Jennifer Guernica had the best time among the women from Austin as she ran 1:46:40. In the ultra, Brenda Guajardo had the fastest time (3:57) among the Austin peeps to finish second in her age group (30-34). Also scoring second place finishes in the ultra were old friend Russell Secker in 5:42 (60-64) and Chris Giaraffa in 6:19:22 (55-59).
O At the Get Your Rear in Gear 5-K last weekend at Camp Mabry, Scott Kimbell was the class of the field (17:21), but the overall second place went to Karen Saenz in 18:53. Karen’s mother—Susan Kohagen—won her age group (65-69) with a time of 26:20.
O Dick and Jill Beardsley are pulling up stakes and moving up north. Way up north. They have bought the Lake Bemidji Bed & Breakfast in Minnesota (where Dick is from) and plan the grand re-opening in about a year. Until then, they’ll work on fixing the place up and Dick will operate his fishing guide service on the lake this summer. I don’t fish, but can’t imagine a better fishing guide than Dick.
O Congrats to my friend Natasha Van Der Merwe and her husband Steve White on her pregnancy. Natasha, the director of triathlon at Austin Aquatics Sports Academy, is expecting her first child–a girl– in August.
O The UT women earned a three-pete as they won the Big 12 Indoor Champs for the third consecutive season. The Longhorn men had a clear shot at winning the team title too. UT had to win the final event—the 4 x400 relay—but Baylor won the relay and Oklahoma State captured the team crown. Seniors Zack Bilderback and Ryan Crouser had great meets. Bilderback won the 200/400 double and his 400 time of 45.27 currently ranks as No. 2 in the world, while Crouser won the shot (71-3.50) which ties the collegiate record.
O More UT: In all, 14 Longhorns qualified for the NCAA Indoors in Birmingham next week (March 11-12). Eight women and six guys are going to the NCAAs, headed by world leader Courtney Okolo in the 400 and Crouser in the shot.
O Quinn Carrozza, the daughter of Paul and Shiela, has qualified for the NCAA Swimming Champs. The UT freshman punched her ticket to Nationals in all three of her individual events (200 free, 200 backstroke and 500 free). In the Big 12s last weekend, Quinn was a member of the winning 800-yard free relay, won the 200 free and was second in the 500 free and 200 back.
O Saddened to report on the death last Friday of ultra running pioneer Ruth Anderson of Oakland at the age of 86. I knew Ruth when I lived in the Bay Area and she was a terrific, friendly woman who competed in road races of every distance. Never fast, Ruth found her calling when she took up ultra running when she was in her mid-40s. In 1983, she finished the Western States 100 at the age of 53 which made her, at the time, the oldest woman to complete that 100-miler. Ruth, who was inducted into the USATF National Masters Hall of Fame, continued racing well into her 70s.
O Gilbert Tuhabonye is doing his part next week to raise money for the Amplify Austin campaign. G-Man is going to run the steep Wilke Road hill (mountain) in Barton Hills 25 times on Wednesday morning (March 9) at 6. His goal is to raise $5,000 which will help the Gazelle Foundation provide clean water to more than 400 Burundians. To learn more and/or to contribute, go gazellefoundation.org/amplify.
O Back on My Feet, which combats homelessness by using running, will also take part in the Amplify Austin campaign. Back on My Feet will host a 12-hour treadmill challenge at Luke’s Locker on March 9 (Wednesday), beginning at 6 a.m. Using three treadmills set on the sidewalk outside Luke’s, runners will go for an hour at a time to raise at least $50. Whoever raises the most for Back on My Feet, will get a $250 gift card to Bicycle Sport Shop. For more info and/or to donate: go to
O Twenty-Six Two—the group dedicated to coaching women for their first marathon—is now accepting applications for next year’s (2016-17) training group. Since 2004, the group has trained more than 100 women to their first marathon. The coaching is free and the only caveats are that you must be a woman over 18 who has completed a half marathon but has never run the 26.2-mile distance. For info, go to www.twentysixtwo.org.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Mercy, Mercy,” by the Buddy Rich Big Band. Recorded in 1968, this epic contains two the two BRBB classics: “Channel One Suite” and “West Side Story Medley.”
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