Jace Graham meets his buddies in the middle of a field at Norbuck Park, behind his house, every Wednesday and Friday morning, before the sun comes up. MATTHEW KLINE, GARRETT MYER, FREDDY VACA, KEVIN LINDERMAN, DAVIS KENNEDY, Jace’s younger brother, TYLER GRAHAM and MO BROSSETTE are all buddies but they come together to this vacant early morning field to lift and throw things. Though they’re dressed in shorts and Under Armor gear working up a sweat, I’m freezing in my winter jacket and gloves taking pictures and writing notes. Steam leaves their bodies in a mist when they pause, which isn’t often. The sun’s not up yet, and these guys have already burned more calories than most will burn all day.
They spend over 90 minutes heaving tractor tires, doing calisthenics, chopping wood, tossing ropes, throwing 30 lb. sandbags over their head as they run the length of a football field and back, and then carrying a 5-gallon bucket of rocks back and forth across the same field again. “Real medieval type stuff,” says Jace. That’s an hour and a half without a break. All of it involves dead weight to help them build strength and endurance. After each round (they do several), they break out together for a loop of running the park, starting off ascending the big hill. This is not a workout for the fragile.
“When I competed in my first obstacle race this past October, I got my butt kicked by a bunch of guys, and gals, from the Metroplex.” He emphasizes the women who beat him, also. “I had no idea what the race had in store. What I found out is that there are dedicated local athletes training for these types of races with as much dedication as the top local triathletes.” He is inspired to not repeat his first finishing experience again. “I am anxious to enter another one of these events with a little more training and understanding of the race.”
“By the way,” Jace warns me, “You’re getting in the game as well. Not just photos. Hell of a workout. No gym membership required. True grit, amigo. Heck, you can even come to Norbuck Park every Wednesday and Friday morning at 6am and join me and a few buddies for obstacle course training until you’re ready to keel over.” Jace gets very excited about the prospect of getting manly and dirty. “We get medieval twice a week trail running, flipping oversized tractor tires, kettle bells, carrying buckets of rocks uphill, heaving ropes, cinder blocks, tree stumps, do burpees, and anything else that can put a whooping on ourselves. Each session is different and always a challenge. As for the photo shoot, I’d prefer to do it at Norbuck Park. That’s my element and who I am. Not into the pool shots, not my thing.”
Through it all, Jace (rhymes with “chase” with a “J”) is grinning from ear to ear. His breaths are so deep to drag in sweet oxygen, he can be heard inhaling and exhaling. The breaths traveling into his body can be heard. But, he’s loving every minute of it. He’s hanging out with a good group of guys being physical.
“I competed in a 13-mile obstacle race last October with Brossette. It was a Spartan race and was held at a hunting lodge outside of Cleburne. It was extremely tough! But a blast! We were running through rivers, carrying five gallon buckets full of rocks up hills, and hurdling over six foot fences.” He pauses and thinks for a moment. “I definitely want to race more of these types of events this year since they challenge your mind and body beyond belief. Think triathlon, cross fit, trail running, mind puzzles, and spear throwing all in one event. What a muddy fun mess!”
Meanwhile, he rests in the knowledge that his 15 month old son, Jimmy Jett, is being cared for by his wife, HILARY, just a short jog away. “Triathlon is a very selfish sport and it is crucial to have your significant other on board. Outside of triathlon and endurance sports, I would like to believe that I have accomplished being a good husband and father, but as everyone knows this is a constant work in progress. Hilary is very supportive of what I do and I am extremely fortunate of that.”
Jace is an equal among this band of merry men getting dirty in the dead winter grass and left over mud. The trees stand as witnesses, silent and stoic. It’s later on in his house behind a mug of coffee that he relaxes for a minute before summoning his wife and child for more photographs. He’s good with them both, a smile never leaving his face.
“I train because it keeps me sharp and focused in all aspects of life. The harder I train the more energy I have at work and at home with the family. I also want to teach my son firsthand that if you want to succeed at something you must work hard to achieve it. It may sound cliché but there is nothing more true to this virtue. This inspires me to be a good role model for my son and show him firsthand what dedication and passion for a sport really are.”
With Jace, Hilary, and Jimmy Jet, like to take road trips and camp in their Airstream camper. “One rule of life when road tripping…no Interstates!” Jace is also a real bee keeper, making wine and beer.
He says he got into beekeeping a few years ago after attending a seminar at the Trinity Valley Beekeeping Association. Over the last few years, they have had several hives right in their own backyard. “Since our house backs up to Norbuck Park the bees have plenty of space to forage and look for pollen on the wild flowers that grow in the park. This year we have decided to relocate our hives down to our ranch since we lost a few due to colony collapse disorder.”
This is where the queen and all the bees leave the hive for no apparent reason. “There are many theories as to why this occurs more often in cities, such as pesticides, toxins in the environment or electromagnetic radiation from cell phone towers. I personally think with all the chemicals we put on our lawns and the citywide mosquito spraying both had a major effect on the healthiness of our hives.”
And what about the beer and wine?
“I’m still pretty novice when it comes to making beer or wine, but the batches are getting better each time. I have made a Cabernet Franc, a Gerwurtztraminer (think Reisling) and my wife Hilary made a really good Pinot Noir. I do not have a vineyard, but Hilary and I have contemplated planting one down at our ranch in the Hill Country someday. For now I get my unfermented grape juice from a local beer and wine making store called Total Wines out on I-35. I add the yeast of my choice and age with oak chips in large glass containers called carboys. It takes several months to produce a batch of wine and each batch yields about five gallons of wine or about 20 bottles. There are definitely a lot easier ways to get a buzz, but I really enjoy the process. It’s definitely a true labor of love.”
Jace is a local boy, born right here October 30, 1977 (He’s 37.) at Dallas Methodist Hospital, or as it’s known today, Methodist Dallas Medical Center, right next to the Bishop Arts District. He has one brother younger, Tyler (34), who did his first half marathon during this interview. Jace gives a shout out and says “Congrats!”
Their parents were “were heavily involved in the community while we grew up,” Jace says. While his dad, JIM GRAHAM was President of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board and co-chaired the World Cup host committee when international soccer came to Dallas in 1994, he owned Dallas’ professional indoor soccer team, the Dallas Sidekicks. He was the owner when the team won the national championship. Jace says, “This was back when Tatu would run around and throw his shirt into the stands whenever he scored a goal. What a blast!” After starting the company on his own in 1976, he is still President of the family oil and gas company, Palo Petroleum, Inc.
Was he tempted to play soccer while his dad was involved and the team was winning?
“I actually did play soccer growing up. In fact, I was pretty good and played fullback on a club team called the Longhorns ’77 all the way until I was 12 or so. We had an Iranian coach named Saied Bagverdony who would run us for hours if we did not hustle hard enough in practice or a game. One time we won a game but our overall performance was below par so he had us running wind sprints after the game in front of the other team. You should have seen the look on their face. A lot of parents complained that Saied was too hard on us since we were just kids, but I have to admit I really enjoyed playing for him. His attitude towards us and firmness has helped mold me into the man I am today. For that I am truly thankful.”
PAMELA GRAHAM, Jace’s mom, played a big part in Jace’s life, and still does today.
“My mother was a huge influence on me growing up. She always believed in and encouraged me to try new sports. She would never miss a swim meet, race, triathlon, or game, and was always cheering. I remember when I would get nervous before a big race she would hold my hands and tell me to close my eyes and visualize the run or stroke or distance. This would help ease my nerves considerably. Even to this day when my mom comes out to support me she tells me to close my eyes and visualize the race. It still works to this day. I love that woman.”
Pamela stayed home with the boys until Tyler was in the 6th grade. Then she went back to college and received a degree in Interior Design at El Centro. Currently, she has her own interior design company called The Graham Group.
Growing up in Dallas, Jace went to Preston Hollow Elementary School, then Franklin Middle School, and finally to Jesuit College Preparatory School for high school. Standing here talking in the middle of Norbuck Park field between rounds, one can hear Texas in his speech. He has the Texas twang and drawl between his cheek and gum.
“I am the same person today that I was when I was five. Just a little bigger, hairier, and slower these days.” That means he’s outgoing, and ambitious, “A kid who was never afraid to try something at least once.” Mowing yards, shining shoes, and washing cars, he worked to earn money as a kid. But he was equally dedicated and passionate about sports such as swimming, triathlon, soccer, football, and track. Yes, he said the “T” word, triathlon.
Growing up a swimmer (more on that in a bit), he naturally gravitated towards endurance events such as running 5K’s and triathlons. “I liked competing in solo events like swimming. Running in 5K’s and 10K’s at a young age was an easy transition.”
He began cycling at the age of seven, “because I couldn’t swim or run the bike leg of triathlons,” and did his first triathlon that year in 1985. “Other than the occasional monster in my closet I was a pretty tough little kid and wasn’t scared of much.” It was the Rainbow Bread Triathlon located at the Cooper Clinic at Preston Road and Forest. He still remembers the race with clarity.
“I didn’t own a bike at the time so I borrowed a girl’s down the street. She was twice as tall as me. I remember standing and peddling the entire time since I could barely get my butt on the seat. I must have looked pretty funny. I was probably 50 lbs. wet, wearing a little speedo with a helmet engulfing my head, and riding the bike like it was an elliptical trainer.
“When I got to the run I was whooped, but I took off running like a little monkey. I remember getting my first side cramp towards the finish line and did not think I could finish. This was the most excruciating pain my seven-year-old body had ever encountered. I had no idea what was happening so I grabbed my side as hard as I could and ran towards the finish line. My mom was screaming at the top of her lungs to keep me going forward.
“I recall crossing the finish line not knowing what the heck just happened. The announcer was former sports reporter, Scott Murray, and he gave me a high five. He told me I should stay for the awards. To my surprise I won my age group and had qualified with the National Championships in Phoenix.” Such was the auspicious start of Jace’s triathlon career. He would learn to handle side cramps and so much more in the years ahead.
After the race, he realized he wanted and needed to be serious. Enter local coach SCOTT EDER.
“After that race I realized I needed to get a little more serious and bought my first 10-speed bike. My folks hired the only triathlon coach in town at the time to train me. His name was Scott Eder. He is still a triathlon figurehead in the community and manages Team Cambridge.”
“He and I are pretty good buddies,” Scott said when contacted for this story. “Hilary, his wife, is on our team.”
Jace continues. “Scott was also coaching a little known triathlete at the time who was about six years older than me. His name was LANCE ARMSTRONG. This was back in the mid-80’s before anyone really knew of triathlons. I would wake up at 5:30 in the morning and ride my bike in the dark from our house to the pool at SMU to swim with the Mustang Swim team. The other kids thought I was nuts but I really enjoyed mixing up the sports and training.” Jace went on to excel as a kid in several local races such as IronKids, KidSport, the Tom Laundry Triathlon, and River Cities triathlons to name a few. (During the course of this interview and story, an original KidSport t-shirt was found and given to Jace.)
His hands on hips, huffing and puffing, he talks of Armstrong and how he looked up to him.
“Growing up swimming, biking, and running in the Dallas area, naturally Lance was a guy I really looked up to. Scott Eder was coaching the both of us at the time, so I went on rides and runs around White Rock Lake with the other young athletes he was coaching at the time, Lance being one of them. Lance was about five years older than me and dominating the local triathlon scene. This was way before the lights, the cameras, the Tour wins, the scandals, any of that stuff. This was a kid who trained his butt off and raced hard, end of story. I have been told that hard work beats talent any day when talent doesn’t work hard. Well Lance had both talent and worked harder than anyone I knew. That really resonated with me at a young age. It’s a shame that his name and seven Tour wins have been so tarnished with all the controversy surrounding him these days. While I do not agree at all with what he did, I still have a lot of respect for the man and what he accomplished, especially the kid I knew and looked up to 30 years ago.”
Jace’s favorite races are both in Austin: the Capitol of Texas Olympic distance race and Austin 70.3 half Ironman triathlons. “CapTex” because, “Not only is the race right downtown with a swim in Lady Bird Lake and bike loops around our state’s capitol, but the competition is pretty fierce. It has been a couple of years since I competed in this race but look forward to returning soon.” He says Austin 70.3 is a good race, too, “with a fast swim, beautiful bike through the hill country, and a tough run. I have done pretty well on this course, qualifying for the Ironman World Championship back in 2013 with a 4 hr., 37 min. finish.”
After being a kid, swimming was his first sport. “I always liked the water as a young kid and learned how to swim by the age of two. It was a natural sport for me to gravitate to. I’m naturally comfortable in the water and swimming in a large pack in open water is kind of like a game to me. I’m constantly trying to find someone who is a little faster than me that I can hook on to and drag behind.”
He became an avid swimmer when he was younger, swimming for the Dallas Mustang Swim Team from the age of 5 to 13. Though he was pretty good in general, his fast strokes were the breast stroke and free style. “I could not, and still cannot, butterfly to save my life!”
He qualified for the Texas Age Group Swimming (TAGS) championship meet for several consecutive years. He always placed in the top three of his age group, even qualifying for the Junior Olympics. He swam the 100 yards freestyle in 59 seconds at the age of 13.
“Anyone who has swam competitively knows it is an extremely dedicated sport. You swim before school, after school, on the weekends, and pretty much any other time kids are out playing in the neighborhood. Heck, I was even shaving my legs back then for the championship meets. Now what’s a boy doing shaving his legs at 12? Pretty serious stuff I tell you. …I have a lot of respect for swimmers.”
He entered Jesuit College Preparatory High School. “What a great school led by the Jesuit priests. These guys are open-minded and would encourage us to explore our own faith and spirituality.”
“I grew up as a kid going to Northwest Bible Church here in Dallas, but went to Jesuit for high school where Catholicism was a major influence. I also took a class in Buddhism in college that was very enlightening and made me really reflect on my life and how to be a better person inside and out. Now I go to the Church of White Rock Lake, the Church of Norbuck Park, the Church of the South Loop and any other church that allows me to be outside and in tune with my body and spirit. This is where I can truly reflect and take in everything beautiful around me that God has created. Some people like to sing songs and give praise and that’s OK. But for me it’s more about being outdoors and as close to God as I can be.”
But things can change for a boy when he enters high school. His perspective of the world and himself changes as he sees things he’s never seen before. For Jace, he discovered football, not surprisingly given Dallas’ focus. “I decided I wanted to try some of the other sports out there so I hung up the speedo for a football helmet and track cleats.”
His freshman year he played football in the fall, soccer in the winter, and track in the spring, a full year of sports. “I realized I really liked football, but…”
He says he “wasn’t always the most athletically gifted,” so he worked hard at each sport.
“Reflecting back on it all now, I think I was most afraid of not succeeding after all the hard work and determination. I was pretty hard on myself and wanted to make my family proud. They were always extremely supportive but the Graham clan is pretty intense. Having several alpha male’s in one household always keeps things interesting.”
But Jace could also run a sub 5:00 mile on the track. With lungs developed from swimming, biking, and running, the guy had some speed.
“This was not the norm since most of my buddies who played on the football team were sprinters. I guess all those years of building endurance in swimming and triathlons allowed me to excel in the 1600m.”
By his sophomore year, he decided to put all of his efforts into football and became a linebacker. “I was a skinny kid back then. But I was very aggressive and could hit really hard.” He worked hard and worked his way up, becoming a starter his junior and senior years. He earned All District honors. Not bad for a skinny runner.
“I went on to play football in college at Cornell University where I was named the Special Teams player of the year my sophomore year and a two-year letterman. Cornell was a blast but football was not very popular in the Ivy League. I think I played in front of more people in high school down in Texas then I did in college. There is no doubt [the TV show] ‘Texas Friday Night Lights’ is for real.”
Jace graduated from Cornell in 2001 with a degree in business marketing, a minor in hospitality, and weighing 230 lbs. “A bit flabby,” he says of himself then. “What a long way my body had come from the skinny, slow-twitch endurance, aerobic athlete from the early years of swimming to now an all fast-twitch anaerobic bulked up physique.”
He knew he wasn’t going to play in the NFL. He also knew he no longer needed all the extra weight. He made the decision to go back to a sport familiar to him to get in a different kind of shape. “I decided to turn back to the familiar sport of triathlon to get back into shape. There is where my re-found love for the sport emerged.”
Currently, he’s 6’3” and 200 lbs in the off-season. “I like to get down to around 180 lbs when I race, but my wife says I look puny and is concerned I will not be able to protect her.”
Hillary dotes on Jace and Jimmy Jett with equal panache, never letting one alone too long for fear of abandonment to creep in. She juggles both with aplomb as she readies herself this morning for a guest taking photos and taking notes.
Jace is a big man. Shirtless on the pool deck one can easily see his mass and strength as he enters Lane 3. After playing college ball, he didn’t have any pie-in-the-sky football dreams knowing it wasn’t going to go anywhere. So, he made plans to stay fit in other ways.
“My triathlon these days consists more of bathing, feeding, and changing our 15 month old, Jimmy Jett! That is a tough sport, I tell you. My wife podiums every day!” Meanwhile, Jace looks forward.
“I’m dusting off the bike and running shoes and thinking of giving Ironman Texas a go. Hope I remember how to put my aero helmet on correctly.” He still worries about the helmet engulfing his head like it did at his first triathlon.
But, what’s it like to go fast, Jace?
“Going fast is not a ‘get rich quick scheme,’ but a result of all the countless hours of training and preparation that has occurred months in advance of a race. In order to go fast over long periods of time or distances one must build their aerobic base slowly and methodically months leading up to a race. One of my past coaches, SCOTT WHITTEN, really worked with me on achieving this base and understanding how it affects my racing. He taught me that you have to build that large aerobic diesel engine as a foundation before you can add more high end gears needed while racing.
“I can talk about positioning in the water and how that helps me go faster or trying to be as aerodynamic as possible in order to increase my speed on the bike, but in reality I know when I’m going fast only when I have done all the work and preparation to get my body to a point where the mind does not have to think, ‘Can I go fast?’ But the body can just take over and do its job.”
After taking a year off from competitive racing, Jace is looking forward to “getting ‘fast’ again,” but this takes time, he says. “I’m slowly building back that diesel engine so if you see me out at White Rock Lake running 10:00 miles you’ll know I’ve got a long way to go. The journey to ‘going fast’ starts now.”
Jace is very proud of his pretty brunette wife, Hilary. “Not only is she the sweetest, most loving person I’ve ever met, she can get after it and podium on the triathlon scene, then come home and make a mean apple pie to boot.” Hilary Jo was born in Nacogdoches (east Texas) on a dairy farm. Tall and slender, she was one of the better runners at Tuesday Night Track.
The couple met in Austin in 2003.
“We were at a pool party and she caught my eye immediately. So I introduced myself. She didn’t give me much thought initially. But I kept bugging her girlfriends to let me take her out on a date. They finally agreed.” Their first date was here in Dallas for the Texas -OU football game.
“Unfortunately, Texas was getting their butts whopped by the Sooners by halftime so we decided to hit the Midway and ride some rides. I convinced Hil’s to ride the Pirate Ship for the first time in her life. .
I knew this was the girl. She was pretty scared but held my hand and said, ‘Let’s go.’ We have not looked back ever since.”
Hilary and Jace were married with Jace wearing a skirt, or kilt. “Yes it’s true, I did wear a kilt with our family’s tartan and all my groomsmen wore them as well.” They were married in the hill country May 16, 2009. Despite it raining all day, the wedding was held outdoors. Just before the ceremony was to begin the rain stopped and the wedding went on as planned. “Talk about a close call, but we would have made it work even in the rain. It was the happiest day of my life other than seeing my son being born. Talk about a fun party afterwards. We had a funk band and Hil’s and I both made a promise to not leave the dance floor once. You should have seen all my buddies busting a move in their kilts. Hilarious…true Scotsmen!”
They make a good couple. “This girl has it all and I am so fortunate to be married to her. She compliments my personality very well,” Jace says.
Ten years after they met, James Jett Graham (15 Months), aka “Jimmy” Jett, was born. “What a stud!” Jace says. He laughs, “This little dude CAN NOT be slow with a name like that!” One can easily see that there will be a race in the not-so-distant future when the entire family will be entered in a triathlon, and all will take home a medal.
Being a father has been the most rewarding part of Jace’s life, he says, other than finding and marrying the love of his life. “My son, Jimmy Jett, was born on Friday September the 13th, 2013. Who says good luck can’t occur on Friday the 13th? Now that he is 18 months old his little personality is really starting to show. A real ‘mini me,’ through and through. I decided to take a little break from competitive racing last year to spend more time with my family and as a new father. I am so glad I did since you only get to experience these moments once in a lifetime. There is nothing better than to come home from work after a long day and see this bright blue eyed little rascal waiting at the top of the stairs to give his dad a big hug. Priceless!…”
Locally, Jace in respectful of the competition the area has to offer, calling it, “Legit.”
“Dallas has some of the toughest and fastest age groupers in the nation, old and young. You have to put in the time and effort to grab a podium spot even in the local shorter sprint distance triathlons. You can find groups or clubs that have athletes training for their first sprint triathlon all the way up to groups who are training to compete in Kona [The World Championship Triathlon in Hawaii]. You can go swim with Olympians and top collegiate swimmers with the Dallas Aquatic Masters or can run with a group that fits any pace you wish out at White Rock Lake. Overall, Dallas and the surrounding area has a solid swim, bike, road and off-road running community where anyone can join a group or club on any level and get a good dose of training for whatever type of sport they wish to excel at. I think the DFW area has a ton of selection for a person that wants to get into triathlons or other endurance type sports.”
There are really two Jace Grahams. One stands before us and smiles. He is the guy we are used to seeing at practice, on training runs, and rides with buddies. He’s out going, jovial, sharing stories, and smiling a lot. The other Jace Graham we don’t really see, except for glimpses out on the race course. He is the one who comes out at races. He’s focused with blood pouring into his muscles, tendons, and sinew making his veins pop. He sweats and strains to beat the competitor in front of him, himself, and the clock. His mind is filled with strategies and closed dialog, sheets of desire to be at his best, if only for his own self-respect. Jace Graham the non-racer is Dr. Jekyll. Jace Graham the racer is Mr. Hyde.
When racing, Jace tries to listen to his body and breath. “It sounds pretty simple but often times we over think everything, especially in a race. I try to bring the focus internally and only concentrate on the things I can control. I can’t control the weather or if I get a flat tire so I might as well not waste the precious energy dwelling on these types of things. The races where I have performed the best were the ones when I did not over think everything, but just tuned into my body and executed the game plan. It was almost like I was in a Zen like state and the suffering was subdued while the body just took over and did it’s job. I look forward to getting back to racing this year to experience that feeling once more.”
But he looks out at the landscape of triathlon and aerobic sports in Dallas and sees hope.
“Generally speaking I think the community is supportive of triathletes, cyclists and runners alike. For the first time we are starting to see the City Council, led by Mayor Rawlings, really push for more trails, park space, and designated cycling lanes to connect the city for those on foot or two wheels. I am not saying we have completely figured it out yet, but it is good to see the support and effort coming from our elected officials.” Dr. Jekyll likes it.
Jace’s workout schedule isn’t defined by numbers. To him, it’s really a matter of putting in the time, the hours upon hours of solo effort that equals satisfaction at the finish line and, if you’re lucky, a medal. “In all I try to get 10 – 15 hours of training in a week, sometimes more when building for a specific race.” As a result he generally puts in two workouts per day during the week, and longer efforts on Saturdays. Sunday is off from training, spent making waffles for the family.
Swim and cross fit
Running hill repeats or a track workout (“Bring TNT back!”), and an easy spin
Obstacle training and a “focused” bike trainer session
Long run and an easy swim
Swim and obstacle training
A longer bike session followed by a run
“Free therapy.” That’s what he calls every opportunity to work out. “I am truly blessed to be able to get outdoors and do the sports I love. When I have I problem I’m trying to solve at work I get out on the bike or go for a long run. If I want to relax and get my mind off things I can go for a swim. If I want to pick up the intensity and start the day off with a natural jolt of caffeine, I can cross fit or obstacle train behind the house. No matter what the mood, there is a sport I can do that can help calm the mind and lift the spirit. You never regret the run or ride you just went on but you always regret the run or ride you never went on.”
Jace has worked at Palo Petroleum, the family business, since 2005. He is the VP of Operations, responsible for his company’s project implementation, strategic development, and oversight of mineral and royalty acquisition partnerships. “I have been involved in many acquisition and divestiture projects in the oil and gas industry,” he says, “including prospect generation, project management, large leasehold purchases and sales, as well as mineral and royalty estate acquisitions.”
Before that, he was what is termed as an “independent landman,” working in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas gaining knowledge in oil and gas lease acquisitions and title curative. “Prior to my career in the oil and gas business, I managed Houston’s Restaurant (now Hillstone) in Dallas and gained insight into setting up fully functional systems as well as team management.
Palo Petroleum, Inc. is a family-owned, independent oil and gas company founded in 1976. In 2009 I began our royalty acquisition program and in 2011, Palo Royalties, LLC was established for the management and servicing of all our mineral and royalty partnerships. We are currently managing several royalty partnerships with interests in Barnett Shale gas reserve areas just outside of downtown Fort Worth. “We are probably one of the largest royalty owners in Tarrant county alone.”
The Graham family has been in the oil business since the 1930’s. “I am a 4th generation oil and gas fella, so I guess you could say oil is in my blood!”
Palo’s current and most interesting project has involved the acquisition and development of a shallow heavy oil steam flood project located in Missouri.
“This project has the potential to recover millions of untapped barrels of oil if we can just uncrack the code to producing this heavier, more viscous oil. Our production process is completely unique in nature and requires using a combination of horizontal production wells and multi-zoned vertical steam injectors to provide top-to-bottom and North-South control of the steam front to maximize oil recovery. We are doing some pretty exciting stuff in the ‘Show Me’ state and believe we have drilled the longest and shallowest horizontal wells in the United States. Pretty neat stuff for our small family owned oil company to be involved in.”
Jace has had some rough races. He particularly remembers the 2010 Ironman Louisville race. It was one of the hottest races on record. The drop-out rate during the race was one of the highest in Ironman competition. It was Jace’s first Ironman distance race, 140.6 miles of voluntary torture. “What a butt kicking but so rewarding.” He ran out of fuel for his body at Mile 90 of the bike course and had to spend 20 precious minutes in the transition tent, “trying to pull myself together to start the marathon.”
“When I finally re-fueled enough and had enough courage to step out of the changing tent, I remember seeing people lying down on both sides of the road with cramps and dehydration issues. There must have been 10 ambulances on the run course…total carnage. I told myself, I was going to finish this race no matter what. It was a struggle, but at Mile 17 on the run I had this calmness come over my body. The mind had been fighting the body all day long up until this point. ‘Slow down. Speed up. Eat more Gu. Watch your heart rate. It’s too hot. Blah, blah, blah.’ Finally, all that mental struggle came to an end. Call it habituation, which means the more you’re exposed to something that you initially fear, the less you fear it, and eventually you become immune to it. You get used to it. So the body did what it knows to do. Survive and move forward. I think anyone that has gone these types of distances can relate.”
In 2015, Jace only has a few races he’s targeting. All of them will be in the second half of the year, and all will try him in his courage and training. “I am excited about the three main events on the calendar because each will push me in a different capacity, but all will be equally rewarding when finished. I am going to challenge myself in a few different areas that I have not focused on before.”
These races will be the Austin 70.3 half ironman, the Spartan Beast obstacle race (30 obstacles over 12 – 15 miles of trail running), and the Dallas White Rock Marathon. At the marathon, he wants to run a 3 hr., 10 minute race (7:15 pace) so as to qualify for The Boston Marathon. “It’s on my ‘bucket list’ of things to do before I die.”
He knows the training involved to accomplish these races and giving himself the time to train. “After a couple of months of focusing on growing our family business, I am just now starting the long base training efforts that lead up to these events. The training starts 6 – 8 months out and is not done overnight.” Amen!
Besides his buddies early in the morning at Norbuck Park, Jace also gets after it with the “FMF Crew,” a bike group out of Frisco that involves several people interviewed in The Phast Times News: RON TRIBENDIS, HAROLD WILSON, JEFF SCARELLA, BRANDON BARNETT, DAVID JONES, and REZA ANVARIAN. “If you want to ride with some studs, then this is the training ride for you. The group is made up mostly of Ironman and half Ironman Championship qualifiers.” Jace heaps special compliments on SHAWN BONSELL (June 2013 PTN cover story). “What an incredibly nice fellow that is 10 years older than me. Sorry, Shawn. He can still get after it and throw down on any of the three disciplines. What a solid group in all, best in breed across all disciplines!”
It takes a special person to pursue his dreams when the odds are stacked against him or who has obstacles in the way to practice, training, and races, pulling him out the door one minute and back inside the next.
“I will have to admit now that I have a 15-month-old running around it has made it quite a bit more challenging to train competitively. I try to get my workouts done in the morning so I can spend the evening with my family. The last thing I want to do after work is go jump on a bike for a couple of hours knowing my son wants to play with his Dad.”
Jace’s PR’s are consistent and show off his strength and endurance.
Olympic distance triathlon – 2:15
70.3 triathlon – 4:37
13.1 half marathon – 1:28 run during the final leg of a half Ironman triathlon
Ironman triathlon (140.6 miles) – 10:30
5K – 18:47
Other than rolling a 4 x 4 a few weeks before the big race at St. Croix 70.3 and being banged up, Jace has had no injuries to speak of. He’s lucky, true, but also very aware of keeping his body strong against injury. As for the half Ironman race in St. Croix, he says it was the best race of his life.
As a couple, the Grahams like to relax. That might mean taking in one of their favorite restaurants, R+D Restaurant. “These guys have it all. Excellent food, a warm comfortable vibe with a top-notch wait staff that are always on point with their service.” Eno’s Pizza in Bishop Arts is a close 2nd he says. “Jimmy Jett loves him some pizza.”
They both serve on the board of the White Rock Lake Foundation (www.whiterocklakefoundation.org), just as Jace’s dad did. The foundation is instrumental in preserving and improving White Rock Lake, Jace says. “It coordinates public relations efforts, serves as a unified advocacy group before the Dallas City Council, acts in close and effective cooperation with the Dallas Park and Recreation Board to assist in long-term planning and design, and spearheads private fund raising efforts. Both Hil’s and I use the lake so much we felt we had to give back to this special place.”
When asked about the clothes he wears, he laughed. “Ha! Ask my wife. I have my own style. I’m a big fan of Munsingwear. Yes, the clothing with the penguin logo that your grandpa probably wore. The brand has made a comeback, thanks to me, and I am bringing the plaid pants, blue blockers, and V-necks back into style!”
They like to bargain shop at the vintage shops on South Congress in Austin. “The last time we were there I purchased a pretty kick butt retro Castelli cycling sweater that had to be 1970’s vintage. What a rare find!”
On his feet, he wears Newton’s when he trains. “They keep my form and stride more aligned with those goofy little lugs.” But when he races, it’s in Zoot’s because “they are incredibly light and super comfortable without socks.”
Comfortable at home with his wife and son, Jace is the epitome of the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He is self-actualized.
Though he doesn’t claim to have any heroes today, he says there are guys he truly admires. Just no “big name” or common heroes. These people he admires, he does have a “deep respect for their work ethic, training dedication and family commitment as fathers while pursuing the top ranks in the sport.”
“It takes a true hero in my eye to pull off all of these qualities consistently and passionately. Only a handful of guys I know can do it. That being Harold Wilson, Ron Tribendis, Shawn Bonsell, Freddy Vaca, Dave Mirra and my cousin Chad Cook. All guys I truly respect and admire for working their butts off in both the office and sport while being committed fathers.”
But there’s one person who comes to mind when Jace talks of people, FRANCIS LUTMER. He was Jace’s first boss out of college, the general manager for Houston’s Restaurant (now Hillstone’s) in Preston Center where Jace was hired when he was 23. Jace says he admires and respects this man greatly for “helping shape me into the man I am today.” Francis had Jace work every position in the restaurant to fully understand how each person’s role contributed to the dining experience. “Talk about a real run through the ringer,” Jace says. But, in the end, Jace learned some valuable lessons. One, in order to gain the respect of one’s peers and co-workers, one has to fully appreciate and understand their perspective and job first hand. Jace went from dish washing to line chef to waiter and bartender.
“At the time I did not fully recognize the need to understand all positions of the restaurant when I was hired to work as a floor manager and talk to guests. Francis was patient with me and took the time to teach me that. He taught me to take pride in my work, lead by example, pay attention to the details, and to always keep a cool head. …This is hard for me at times; must be the warm blooded Irishman.”
Today, Jace still uses these valuable lessons Francis taught him 15 years ago to help him run the family business. “I cannot thank this man enough for what all he has taught me and hope I am respected by my colleagues as much as I respected him.” Francis is now the General Manager of Hillstone’s sister restaurant, R+D Kitchen, which is located across the parking lot in Preston Center. “If you have never been to a restaurant that knocks it completely out of the park on food, atmosphere and service I would suggest you make a point to visit. Look for the man with the genuine smile and wiry glasses either working the dining room floor or the food expo by the hostess stand and you’ll know you’re in for a real treat. By the way, Francis is a Lane 7 swimmer at Dallas Aquatic Masters [Lane 1 is where collegiate and ex-Olympians swim.] A true stud.”