It didn’t take long for 2019 to feature some stellar road race finishes for Strawberry Canyon Track Club.
At the Clarksburg Country Run Half Marathon, Megan Gentes shattered the club record by two minutes, and her own PR by four minutes, by running 1:19:59 to finish 3rd place. The race capped a long season for Megan which included her winning the 2018 Open Women’s PAUSATF XC Grand Prix.
In San Francisco, Jonathan Briskman defended his title by winning the Hot Chocolate 15k for the second straight year with a time of 49:41. This is a promising start to 2019 for Jonathan, who is coming off a club record time in the marathon from CIM just over a month ago.
This is just the start for what promises to be another strong year on the roads for Strawberry Canyon Track Club. But let’s not forget, track season is already upon us. January 19th will feature the first of three Cal All Comers meets, in all of which we will have a strong presence.
See you out there!
2018 ended on a high note as the Berries wrapped up a record setting year of track, cross-country, and road racing. We look back at the second half of 2018 (first half recap here) and review the year that was.
2018 saw the first time in which a Strawberry Canyon team targeted the PAUSATF Road Grand Prix Circuit, and the results could not have been any more exciting. The 12-race circuit, running from February through December, constitutes a year-long season in which teams compete at races ranging from 1 mile to the marathon. With the circuit a key goal for the open men, the Berries fielded a team at every single race throughout the year, which landed them at 2nd place in the overall standings. There were many great highlights along the way – they captured the team titles, always a impressive feat, at both the Los Gatos One Mile Bang and the Christmas Relays (the latter in dramatic fashion), the first ever road race team victories in club history. Club records fell in many events as well, from the road mile and 5k, all the way to the marathon.
Perhaps most impressive was the team effort that brought home the 2nd place open men team finish – 24 different Berries scored on the 12 road race teams throughout the year, a true testament to Strawberry Canyon’s hallmark depth and camaraderie.
The open women also made their first appearances on the road circuit – for the first time in history Strawberry Canyon fielded women’s teams at a PAUSATF Road Race, scoring squads at the SACTOWN 10 mile and California International Marathon. It feels as if it is just the beginning for the open women, as the club’s marathon presence has been steadily growing.
There were some tremendous finishes on the individual side as well, with respect to the year-long PAUSATF individual standings. There are two tiers for individuals, one for short distance races (1 mile – 10k) and one for long distance (12k and up). In the short circuit, three Berries landed in the top 15 to claim the coveted “comp” spots (they will get to enter all PA races for free next year); Kyle Dunn snagged a podium spot by finishing third on the season, while Colin Gannon was close behind in 4th and Cielo Aguilar came in at 11th. In the long circuit, an astounding five Berries finished in the top 15 after a year of steady running; Jonathan Briskman was 4th, while Colin Gannon was 11th and Ryan Smith 12th, and Kyle Dunn and Ryan Lok rounded out the comp spots in 14th and 15th respectively.
Always a club favorite, the Berries were out in force yet again in 2018 for the PAUSATF club cross country race circuit. The ten race series began in August in Santa Cruz and continued throughout the fall into November at the PA Championships.
The highlights of the season were Megan Gentes capturing the open women’s and David White the Senior men’s Grand Prix individual titles, which totals points scored at races throughout the season. Megan earned the honor after six stellar performances throughout the year, the third woman Berry in club history to achieve this prestigious finish, while David White took the crown in dominant fashion, by winning his division in all six races he competed in.
On the open men’s side, three Berries worked their way into the top 15: freshman phenom Denny Rich finished fifth on the year, while Kyle Bystrom was 11th and Harmen Hoek 15th. Greg McMillan and John Hill both finished 9th in their divisions, Masters and Seniors respectively.
On the team side, the open men and Senior men both finished 3rd on the season-long circuit, while the open women finished 7th.
The cross country season culminated with four Berries competing at the USATF Club Cross Country National Championships in Spokane, Washington. Megan Gentes continued her amazing season by finishing 79th in the extremely competitive 6k race. Elizabeth Ordeman also had a strong race in the open women’s field, while Vanessa Lordi, the newly minted USATF Master’s LDR Champion, ran to a great finish in the Master’s division. Ryan Lok, fresh off an impressive Chicago Marathon performance, was the lone open men competitor.
Looking ahead to 2019
2018 was one of the busiest race schedules in Strawberry Canyon’s club history, and we’ll look to equal that claim again in 2019. As club membership has grown, we have increased the depth of specialties ranging from sprints on the track to longer road races. As always, keep up with us on Instagram, Strava, Facebook, and right here on our website for our latest adventures. In the coming weeks, we’ll post a Spring 2019 preview, so stay tuned! See you out there.
First across the line for the Berries was Jonathan Briskman who absolutely KILLED it with a new open men club record of 2:20:18, missing the US Olympic Trials qualifying time by only 78 seconds and setting an 8-minute PR; I have to think that was the best race of his life to date.
Strawberry Canyon’s annual Fall Time Trial will be held Wednesday, August 22nd at Cal’s Edwards Track in Berkeley. The event is open to all and will feature one heat of the 600m and 3 heats of the 5000m.
Heat start times:
5000m Heat 1 (~sub-19:00): 5:35pm
5000m Heat 2 (~sub-16:15): 6:00pm
5000m Heat 3 (~16:00-22:00): 6:20pm
Contact us for more information.
As the calendar rolled over into July, Strawberry Canyon Track Club headed for the mountains with 17 Berries in tow for the first of its two annual summer team camping trips. Will Edwards, a guest member from Pennsylvania living in Berkeley for the summer, documents the trip to the Eastern Sierras.
The Mammoth Journals: Volume 1
Friday, June 29th, 5:02 p.m – Berkeley, CA
Friday. Finally. I’d survived a particularly draining week of work — the stock exchange hours dictated from back east had done their number on me yet again — but I’d escaped their grip in time to sneak in a 15-minute campus loop before I made my way to Kim’s place on Haste to head out for the weekend.
At long last, the trip to Mammoth was here. I’d been looking forward to it since Carl had mentioned it to me two weeks before — it’d be my chance to get to see the High Sierras, the ones I’d read about in books like Wild and seen in those John Wayne-type movies I used to watch with my dad. For an East Coaster it’d be a treat.
We have mountains, but not mountains. Not ones with peaks that shoot up into the sky well over 10,000 feet above sea-level, snowcapped in the dead of summer. Not ones with imposing granite faces credibly rivaling the French Alps. And yet that afternoon I couldn’t care less about the trip. John Wayne’s High Sierras be damned. There was the fatigue from the week, yes, but moreover was the presence of a growing disenchantment with travel in general. Yeah, the trip was for only going to be for a weekend, but it was going to be yet another episode of hanging out with people I’d hardly known, if at all, just as I’d done again and again and again over the last couple of rootless years. But I allowed the logical decision making process to overrule the day’s emotions, and hell no I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to go to Mammoth.
I threw some clothes in my suitcase and some food in my backpack along with the copy of John Grisham’s “The Firm” my mom had given me before I went out west, and began to make my way down Milvia to meet Kim, who I’d just met at Monday’s workout.
“There you are,” she said, half-relieved, having just sent me five texts in the last 10 minutes trying to confirm my whereabouts, texts which I’d be ignorant of until we’d return. I’d figured the trip south was a good opportunity to shake my raging device addiction and decided to ditch the phone for the weekend. “Throw your beers in the cooler,” she said, packing up the trunk of her Civic. “It’d be nice to at least have a six pack cold when we get there.”
Joseph rounded the corner a few minutes later, and we set off to pick up Jackie as the Irish students getting their Friday night underway next door — both halfway into their case of Bud Light and halfway naked — bid us farewell. Good luck for the trip, right? Something like that.
Friday, June 29th, 11:35 p.m. – Tuff Campground, Mammoth Lakes, CA
We pulled into the campsite and were greeted by silhouettes of thin bodies hiding behind the glow of headlamps. “Welcome, welcome. Glad you guys made it,” an indistinguishable silhouette called out. “Regina and Silvio should be here soon, too.”
It was way past my usual east coast hours bedtime of 9:30. I still needed a proper Friday beer, though, and so I found my way to the cooler and cracked open one of the cheap lagers I’d picked up at Trader Joe’s before the trip. Beer, the smells of campfire and pine trees, the bite of the cold desert night air getting harsher by the minute — the weekend was off to a good start, and I was already glad I’d decided to come along.
“Hello, I’m Justin,” one of the approaching silhouettes said sort of goofily, his black-framed glasses and broad white smile coming more into view as he and his headlamp came closer. “I’m a bureaucrat.”
Ah, this is Justin, I thought. The guy who I was assured would be the resident goon of the trip. The guy who they based an awkward question game on because of his reputation for grilling people with a diverse bouquet no-out-of-bounds of questions. The guy who kept the group laughing. Justin, the bureaucrat. I liked him.
It would be Justin, Joseph, and I in a tent, and the 12 others sporadically placed through the small nylon village that had already been put up before our car arrived. A few of the others had come up on Wednesday and the rest at some point on Friday afternoon. It was an eclectic, and as Carl has put it, “highly intellectual,” group. From across disciplines including accounting, neuro-biology, computer science, climate science, economics, journalism, anthropology, chemistry, and more, there were postdocs, PhD students, master’s-equipped professionals, master’s students, and aspiring med students. Some were at Berkeley, some were transplants from around the country — the world, even. The debates would be deep, wide-ranging, and weird enough for a camping trip in the desert, that was for sure.
I polished off the Trader Joe’s lager and threw on pants and a sweatshirt, bracing for the temperature’s inevitable descent. I tucked into my sleeping bag, took a deep breath of the crisp air I’d remembered from times camping with my family as a kid, and gave in to the long week now behind me.
Saturday, June 30th, 4:13 a.m. - Tuff Campground, Mammoth Lakes, CA
Where is this door zipper? Damn it’s cold. Why did I drink so many of those seltzers on the way down here?
Saturday, June 30th, 10:05 a.m. - Horseshoe Lake, Mammoth Lakes, CA
Kim pulled into a spot next to the others in the caravan of Strawberry Canyon cars. One-by-one we slowly got out of our seats, stretched our legs, and squinted up at the massive mountains beyond the lake, white snow spots decorating their grey, serious dispositions.
This was going to be a long one. Fourteen miles by way of an out-and-back, at least according to the murmurs going through the group. Duck Pass, somewhere up there in the distant mountains, would be the turnaround point. Lollygagging to put off the pain that was bound to come was rife through the group, but eventually we sunblocked up, took our last sips of water, posed for a group photo before we all became too incapacitated from the run to do so afterward, and then headed off down a bike path that led to the trailhead.
Ryan was only going a few miles and had driven off to meet us at the trailhead about three-and-a-half miles down so he wouldn’t waste any of his run on a bike path when there were beautiful trails we’d all traveled six hours to run on. Ryan was the de facto leader of the trip, a long-time Strawberry and the organizer tasked with things like securing a campsite and poring over Google maps to find the best places to hit on our runs. He was going short because he was still recovering from a lab accident during his chem research in which liquid nitrogen leaked from a hose he was holding and dripped into his gloves, giving him frostbite on both hands (the most cross country injury ever), the left worse than the right. Because of this, he had to take off for a few weeks and was still getting back into it for the fall season. He wore a constant mixture of pre-wrap and gauze on his right hand, until eventually he’d graduated to a glove. The Michael Jackson of running chemists, you might say.
The trailhead came into view and we saw Ryan waiting for us. We stopped for a few moments to collect the group before heading up the mountainside.
Fuck, I thought to myself, huffing and puffing and clutching my knees. Am I this out of shape? We haven’t even started climbing yet.
I’d forgotten about the altitude. We’d driven from Berkeley, basically at sea level, up to the campsite at 7,000 feet, and we were set to peak for the day at Duck Pass, 10,700 feet. It was my first time running above anything over 2,000 feet, and it was going to be an interesting couple of hours.
We started the ascent, navigating the trail’s technicality: rocks, steps, and roots abounded. Colin, the 2:41 first-time marathoner, and Sid, the dude who’d drilled us on our 13 miler at Point Reyes a few weeks earlier and then added on four more to hit 17 for the day for good measure, started to separate from the pack as we got higher and higher. Matt Weber–the computer science PhD student who’d encouraged me to come on the trip — and I tried our best to follow. A couple miles up the four of us took a breather and collected ourselves at Skelton Lake.
By now we could see a few of the rock peaks from up close, as well as the snow on them. We knew we were getting toward the Pass. The trail turned from dirt to gravel and then to jagged rocks quickly. We strided carefully up switchbacks, trying to ignore the light-headedness from the altitude starting to kick in. We were up over 10,000 now. I stared at Sid’s New Balances ahead of me, trying to hang on as we ran toward the heavens. Then he and Colin stopped.
“Snow,” Colin said, looking at the trail in front of us frozen in. We looked around for another route and worked our way carefully into the brush, down the mountain and around the blocked part of the trail. I grabbed a handful of it and shoved it in my mouth, 20% to get more water in my system, 80% for the novelty of eating snow in freaking June. We eventually made our way back on, and stopped shortly thereafter at a rock lookout over the valley behind us. It was perhaps the most beautiful view I’d ever seen.
“It looks like the label of a water bottle,” Sid said incredulously. He was right. I mean, wasn’t it common knowledge that scenes on water bottles were painted renditions of a mythical utopia that could have never possibly existed in our universe? Well, here it was, the basis of water bottle labels the world over, incarnate.
Eventually we took off again, beginning to long for relief for our legs that waited at the top. Within minutes we’d reached Duck Pass, looking over the adjacent Duck Lake and its crystal clear, green-blue hue, tucked away among some of the tallest peaks in the California. We sat on rocks above the lake, taking in the views that were the reward for our labor, all of us being greedy with any oxygen we could manage to suck in. My watch read 1:08:14. It was maybe the slowest seven miles I’d ever done, and yet the hardest at the same time.
There was an extreme sense of sereneness over the lake. This was what exploration of nature was about: nothing else seemed to matter, and the rest of the world could have halted for all we knew. It was just us, our feelings of both appreciation, awe, and a sense of intangible correctness, and the top of a mountain range crafted by the hands of God Himself.
But we knew we still had half the job to do yet. We relaxed for a few more moments, caught our breath, and traversed Duck Pass once more to begin our descent. Though it was all downhill, the descent was no easier than the climb. The altitude had begun to get to me by this point, and I’d started to become more involuntarily careless and inattentive by the minute.
“Good job guys, don’t skin your knees though,” a middle-aged hiker on his way up the mountain said to us as we passed. We were lucky none of us did. We’d made it back to the trailhead in one piece, coming across several more hikers and dogs along the way.
There were still three and a half miles to go, though, and Sid, Matt, and Colin were feeling good enough to pick up the pace. I tried to hang for a minute and slowly began to realize that this run was going to end poorly. Three miles from Horseshoe Lake I watched them drift away like a low tide retreating back into the sea. I tried to let the light-headedness pass, but to no avail. My stomach was starting to feel empty, having burned through the bagel I’d eaten that morning. The skin around my armpits had begun to become raw and stung with each stride as sweat ran over the brush burns. I stopped. I bent over and tried to admire Lake Mary just off the side of the road, a last ditch attempt at trying to forget the pain. I pushed on. I stopped. I thought getting into an ice-cold Horseshoe Lake. I pushed on.
Alas. The suffering was over, and I’d made it back to the lake over two hours after we’d started in the same parking lot that morning. I guzzled a water I’d had in my backpack, took off my shoes, and made my way into the freezing lake. I looked up at the snowy peaks we’d just run up to, still in awe of the beauty of the High Sierras, and happy to back down to 7,000 feet, the air thick and bountiful.
Saturday, June 30th, 3:27 p.m. – Tuff Campground, Mammoth Lakes, CA
Silvio and Regina, the postdoc supercouple from Argentina, were driving us back to campsite from the run, with a stop at Von’s, the local grocery store, for lunch. We devoured cold cut sandwiches and Colin a donut and sat in the warm car on the way back, tired and full, until Silvio made the left hand turn into the campsite off of 395.
As we took to the gravel driveway, we heard a shout and saw frantic motion from the right side of the car.
“Hey! Hey! Hey!” the old camp manager with blonde hair and gold-framed sunglasses screamed, running out of her camper towards us, waving her arms. Silvio put on the brakes and rolled down the windows.
“It’s 10 miles per hour,” she scolded into the passenger-side window, apparently perceiving Silvio’s 13mph as 43.
“Ah, okay, sorry, sorry,” Silvio said apologetically.
“You’re dusting everyone out!” she insisted in her southern-like yet implacable accent.
“Okay, sorry, got it,” Silvio cooperated, giving a thumbs up.
“It’s not NASCAR,” she continued.
“Okay,” Silvio said smiling, all of us fake-laughing.
“And tell your friends!” she said.
“Okay, we will,” we said collectively as she began to retreat toward the camper.
Silvio rolled up the windows and lightly pressed down on the gas pedal.
“Keep it under 10, Silvio!” Regina said from the passenger seat, trying to keep her laughter under wraps.
“Yeah, you agree with her I see,” Silvio played along, his eyes raised and lips pressed together.
“Yeah because you are dusting everyone out!”
Saturday, June 30th, 4:33 p.m. – Convict Lake, Mammoth Lakes, CA
“I feel like people only have kids so that they have someone to take care of them when they get old,” Justin continued as him, Matt Perez, Joseph, and I neared the end of our short hike around Convict Lake, named for the escaped fugitives who made it here all the way from Carson City, Nevada, in 1871.
“Alright, Justin,” we said laughing, both immensely amused by and concerned about the barrage of hot takes we’d just heard over the last hour.
Saturday, June 30th, 7:30 p.m. – Tuff Campground, Mammoth Lakes, CA
I opened another lager and sipped it while patiently waiting for the instant mac and cheese to finish boiling.
“Want a whiskey?” Colin asked, handing me a bottle of Jamo.
“Uhm, yeah,” I replied, making up my mind as he held his arm out.
Colin was a fellow east coaster and had moved here five years before for a job after finishing grad school at Columbia. We’d both known some of the same runners we’d competed against in college or ran with at one point or another, and along with Ryan, he helped to administer club functions. We sipped whiskeys from flimsy paper cups and bullshitted about life back east and job plans.
“Mac and cheese!” called Megan, another de facto trip leader and easily the most positive, upbeat and optimistic one on the team — and our resident gourmet chef for the weekend.
One bowl. So good. Two bowls. Three bowls. Four.
Once we’d devoured the Kraft like you’d think a bunch of runners after a 14 miler would, it was s’mores time. Matt Weber got a fire going and Julia, an Anthropology PhD student and desert expert, gathered some sticks for marshmallow roasting. Weber picked one up and started to roast a mallow. I concocted a s’more and sat back down with Colin and Weber and drank another whiskey. It was hot springs night, after all, and what’s better than a desert hot spring with a little whiskey in your system?
A few people had mentioned the hot springs as a possible activity for the night, and now it was officially on the agenda. We’d waited until it was sufficiently dark, piled into a few cars, and headed northbound on 395.
No one had remembered exactly how to get there. There was the road by the church, but after that it was anyone’s guess. I rode in Kim’s car, and she took the lead, having what the others decided was a superior recollection of location. We had to go through a cattle gate, she said, but there were a few. We tried the first. No go. We tried the second. Bingo.
I followed the others into the pitch dark abyss and found my feet on top of a boardwalk, the apparent route to this mystical desert beach we were bound for. I’d already been uncertain of what to expect (again, east coast), and the darkness wasn’t helping. How big were these springs going to be? Are they actually that hot? How are they even hot in the first place?! (“Earth magic,” Weber explained.)
Eventually, we heard a couple of voices to the left of the boardwalk and shined a light and their direction. Voila, there it was. We hopped off the boards and approached the spring, finding a couple whose romantic night we’d certainly just ruined. One by one we plopped into the hot tub-temperature water, dropping shoulders-deep under the surface, relief from the desert air that had already begun its nightly chill.
We joked and relaxed and welcomed the increased blood flow to our sore muscles, all of us boiling like the mac and cheese we ate that night. We gradually took notice of the unknown naked man that had at some point emerged from the abyss and joined us, and gradually accepted that a desert hot spring of all spots was probably no place for societal norms to begin with. And we looked up and marveled at the Milky Way and the constellations and tried hard to think of a better way to end a day as the moon rose over the hill in the distance.
Sunday, July 1st, 8:46 a.m. – Mosquito Flats Trailhead, Mammoth Lakes, CA
“What’s the route today?” I asked Ryan, driving with his gauze-free hand.
“We’re starting at Mosquito Flats, and it lives up to its name, so we’ll try to be brief there,” he replied. “Then the trail goes all the way up to Morgan Pass. It’s a little higher than yesterday, about 11,000 feet.”
Oh great, I gulped. We’d be starting at 10,000 feet, though, only netting 1,000 feet of climbing. And I’d felt surprisingly great considering the 14 miler was less than 24 hours before. Thank you, hot springs. Maybe the run wouldn’t be so tough.
We again went through all of our pre-run rituals and set off up the trail. It was again Sid, Colin, Weber, and me, along with Joseph this time. The trail very quickly showed it would not be a hostile one, and meandered mostly flat and occasionally upward along green meadows and pristinely clear lakes and over gushing creeks. I could feel my chest starting to tighten again, my heart working overtime to get the sparse amounts of oxygen through my arteries faster. But there was no denying the altitude symptoms I’d experienced the day before were nowhere near as severe.
Then came the serious elevation gain. We’d just come to a wide creek and stopped.
“Where is the trail?” one of us asked.
Our eyes scanned in circles looking for a way out of the dead end. The creek had seemed too wide for it to be on the other side, we thought, but eventually we came to the realization that we’d have some water to cross. Just behind the creek sat an array of more imposing, gigantic peaks. It was going to be a tough last half mile to Morgan Pass. We slowly made our way across the creek, carefully hopping from skinny rock to skinny rock, escaping with dry shoes on the other side. Then we hit the switchbacks hard. Our turnaround destination was in sight, 11,000 feet. The light-headedness had begun to come back hard and fast. The trail’s benignity had quickly turned vicious. I stared at Sid’s New Balances again and tuned the rest of the world out. Right, left. In, out. Eyes peeled. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Three and half miles into our run, we had made it to the pass. We stopped and took in the views of the lush pastures below snow-capped mountains, and I laughed to myself again at such an inconceivable juxtaposition.
“Wanna keep going for a mile and half and make it 10 for the day?” Colin asked.
I knew Sid had planned on 10, but Colin had told me on the way up we was going seven, and was going to be my excuse to bail if I was feeling the altitude again.
“Damnit. Fine,” I laughed in reply.
The five of us surged down the other side of the pass, through the bright flowered-fields. I’d felt like Heidi frolicking in the Swiss Alps, minus the goats. At mile five I stopped and picked a few of the yellow ones, smelling their cologne-like pollen. Sid picked some, too.
“I’m bringing these for Algernon,” he said, referencing Daniel Keyes’s short story, Flowers for Algernon, in which a mentally disabled man, Charlie, rids his disability after he undergoes a procedure that had been tested successfully on a mouse, Algernon. Algernon’s condition later begins to deteriorate to the point of death, however, and Charlie is left grappling with his imminent fate. His final request is for someone to place flowers at the mouse’s grave, a symbol of thanks to Algernon for allowing him to experience a new outlook on life, if only for a short time.
As we ran back toward the trailhead, I thought more about Algernon and Charlie and realized that, in a lot of ways, the entirety of the trip had been my Algernon. I’d seen sights that, at far as mountains go at least, very well may be the most breathtaking I’ll ever see. I’d eaten snow in June and sat in a hot spring in the middle of the desert, the cosmos aglow above. I’d felt a renewed appreciation for the value found in travel. And most importantly, I’d met wonderful people who I’d maybe never see again after a few weeks. But I’d experienced these things nevertheless, regardless of their yet-unknown degree of finality, and, as we pushed on together through the meadows, I considered myself fortunate to have done so.
This post was written by Will Edwards.
In yet another successful and prolific racing season, Spring 2018 was very kind to Strawberry Canyon Track Club. Things were bound to get off to a good start when a random mid-January track workout became the most highly attended practice in club history (with 40+ Berries in attendance!); however, this was just the first of many club records that would fall in the subsequent months.
Between the tracks and roads, the first five months of 2018 played host to an astonishing 27 new club records (and far, far more personal bests) covering 21 different disciplines ranging from 60m hurdles to the marathon, and spanning seven age / gender divisions. (As always keep up to date with the latest club records and SCTC PBs on our records page!)
- Open Men 60m Hurdles – Stephen Bailey
- Open Men 110m Hurdles – Stephen Bailey
- Open Men 200m – Stephen Bailey
- Senior Men 400m – Tom LeGan
- Open Men 400m Hurdles – Stephen Bailey
- Senior Men 800m – Tom LeGan
- Open Men 1500m – Harmen Hoek
- Masters Women 1500m – Vanessa Lordi
- Senior Men 1500m – Tom LeGan*
- Masters+ Women Mile (road) – Jen Bayliss
- Masters+ Men Mile (track) – Stephen Agar
- Open Men 3000m – Harmen Hoek
- Open Women 3000m – Megan Gentes
- Masters Men 3200m – George Torgun
- Open Men 3000m Steeplechase – Ben Harper
- Open Women 5000m (track) – Madeline Duhon
- Masters Men 5000m (track) – George Torgun
- Masters+ Men 5k (road) – Jaime Heilpern
- Masters+ Women 5k (road) – Jen Bayliss
- Open Men 10000m (track) – Jonathan Briskman
- Masters+ Women 10k (road) – Jen Bayliss**
- Open Men 15k – Jonathan Briskman
- Open Women 10 mile – Madeline Duhon
- Masters+ Women 10 mile – Jen Bayliss
- Senior Men 10 mile – John Hill
- Masters+ Women 25k – Jen Bayliss***
- Open Men Half Marathon – Jonathan Briskman
- Senior Men Marathon – John Hill
On the track
Things really got rolling at the Oxy Distance Carnival in Los Angeles and the Aggie Open in Davis in mid-March, which is where the first records started to fall. Next up was the first of two trips to the state capital for the Sacramento State Hornet Invitational, which was the grounds of several eventual season bests.
As April rolled around, focus shifted to Hayward where the club favorite meet SFSU Distance Carnival (temporarily relocated) and CSU East Bay Open took place. Between these two meets many club records and PRs fell as Berries took advantage of highly competitive fields. Late April featured a return to Edwards Stadium at Cal’s Brutus Hamilton Open, where unfavorable conditions lead to some off-the-mark times. However, the season was certainly not over.
On the roads
Ben Harper, a Cal sophomore and member of Strawberry Canyon Track Club for the past 3 seasons, recently achieved a longtime dream of running for the UC Berkeley Track and Field program, joining the team officially as a walk-on in March 2018. Kyle Dunn chats with Ben about his experience transitioning from a Berry to a Golden Bear.
On a beautiful February morning at Lake Chabot Regional Park, Ben Harper unknowingly ran what would be his last Strawberry Canyon Track Club Saturday long run (for a few years at least) with a large contingent of familiar, friendly faces. The mood was bright as the sun, and we were all ecstatic to be feeling the warm rays on our backs and soft trail under our feet for the first time in what seemed like months. There was a contagious cheer, and the blend of excitement and anxiousness for what was sure to be quite a hilly run wasn’t even remotely close to putting a damper on the group.
A few wrong turns (typical business at Chabot) and couple thousand feet of somewhat unexpected elevation gain later, things might have changed, but the leader of this pack was content. Ben calmly and patiently waited when the navigation got complicated. The frustrations and complaints were close to surfacing among others in the group, but Ben had no worries, he just happily went back to work with the lead pack, falling into his mid-six minute / mile (uphill) pace, chugging along with confidence and strength.
Not less than two weeks later, Ben was called on by coaches to join the Track and Cross Country teams at Cal, something he had a clear goal of achieving the moment he stepped foot on campus. I couldn’t help but think about how that tough long run must have mirrored Ben’s experience as an aspiring walk-on in so many ways- the exciting new landscape, challenging terrain, and unexpected turns that led to an even more difficult path- though it’s no surprise that there was resulting success and additional opportunities awaiting. I had a chance to dig a little deeper with Ben about the details of that exciting news, as well as to hear a little more about his inspiration and life outside running.
Let’s start by getting the details on how you made it as a walk-on to the Cal team. Had you been actively talking to the coaching staff or did you let your running do the talking? What transpired during the days before and after the good news?
“So getting asked to walk on to the team kind of came out of the blue. I had been in contact occasionally with the coaches while running for Strawberry Canyon, basically updating them on my progress at the beginning of every season because it was still my goal to run for Cal. I didn’t get any indication that they would take me on this season. But I had gotten to know a couple guys on their team and apparently they put in a good word for me. So when I won the 1500 at the second [Cal All-Comers Meet in February], the coaches were impressed and called me into their office the following week to offer me a spot on the team. I remember feeling speechless at first, it was crazy to have achieved one of my life goals so quickly and unexpectedly.
When I got out I immediately called my parents and then Carl since they’ve all been so supportive of my running. I was so ecstatic that the next few days were kind of a blur. But it was a little bittersweet, too, knowing that I’d have to leave Strawberry Canyon.”
How has life changed now that you have an “official” designation as a student athlete? What have been the highlights and challenges?
“I think one of the biggest changes has been just the everyday intensity of the training since we meet once or twice every day for workouts, drills, stretching, or weights. It’s definitely been challenging since it takes up more time and commitment, but it also provides a lot more opportunities to improve. The workouts are hard but I have a good group of teammates to work with and I feel very extremely prepared for them from my training with Strawberry Canyon. And of course there’s the perks like the athletic training room, vans for travel, and all the cool gear.”
Tell me about your background as a runner. How did you get your start and what caused you to fall in love with the running lifestyle?
“My parents are both runners—they both ran for Cal actually—so I grew up going to races a lot. I started running in middle school, but I didn’t really get serious about it until I was about a sophomore in high school. I think, like most runners, that I began to feel the joys of competing, improving PRs and seeing the benefit of hard work. There weren’t many runners at my school, but coming from a small section gave me the thrill of competing for section championships pretty early on in my career. Also, one of the biggest things that made me fall in love with running were the mountain trails in my hometown, which are still my favorite places to run.”
As a multi-talented individual, you give the impression of being someone incredibly grounded. One would guess that if you were forced to stop running for some unforeseen reason, that Ben Harper the person would be the same, and you would have various other outlets to turn to and live a balanced healthy life. Is this the case for you, and if so, how important do you feel it is to make sure other interests occupy some of your time not spent running? What are a few non-running hobbies you enjoy most?
“I think that being well-rounded has helped me both with running and just with personal well-being. It’s been important for me not to allow running define who I am, which is helpful to bounce back after a bad race or injury. I’m a musician, and playing piano has really helped me cope with some hard times. And if you put all your energy into running all the time you will get you burnt out. You need some outlets to relax and recover from the grueling focus on running. Playing piano gives me a healthy outlet outside of races and keeps me sane when races or training gets tough. Other hobbies I like include hiking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.”
What was life like growing up in Weaverville? (you grew up there right?)
“Weaverville is a small mountain town in Northern California. It was a great place to grow up with so many awesome outdoor activities right in my backyard, including great running trails. It was a little tough doing all my training by myself on our dirt track in high school. But it definitely made me a stronger runner. And the town was a very close-knit and supportive community, so I always had that cheering me on. Moving to Berkeley was definitely a bit of a culture shock and it took me a while to get used to the sheer amount of people and things going on here. I was very fortunate to have found a peer group quickly in Strawberry Canyon which really helped ease the transition to the city.”
Whats your pre-race routine and/or superstition?
“I don’t know if I have any special pre-race routines. I like to make sure I get good sleep and visualizing in the night before and get a decent breakfast the day of. I prefer a longer warmup and thorough drills and stretching. I think the only superstition I have is wearing the right pair of socks. As long as I have my lucky socks on I’m good to go.”
If you had to pick one workout not designated as an easy distance run to do for the rest of your life, what would it be? OR What is your favorite workout?
“I think that of the workouts Strawberry Canyon does, the 5-speed tempo is definitely one of my favorites. It takes a while to figure out once you get the hang of it it’s a great simulation of surges in races and it feels really rewarding to finish it.”
What advice would you give to any incoming freshmen with hopes of making the Cal XC and track team?
“To incoming freshmen hoping to make the team I would say be patient and trust the process. Strawberry Canyon has a great training program, so just keep grinding and you’ll eventually see massive improvement. Be persistent, and your hard work won’t go unnoticed. You also have to be smart and focus on the little things: the recovery runs, sleep, stretching, strength, knowing when to back off when you feel an injury coming on. But just have faith that if you put in the work each day, and learn to enjoy the process along the way, you can achieve your goals.”
Pick a favorite for each category:
Vegetable: “Bell Peppers”
Pizza Topping: “Pepperoni”
Band: “Snarky Puppy”
Sports Movie: “Without Limits”
Place to spend the night camping: “Grizzly Lake in the Trinity Alps (or anywhere in the Trinity Alps!)”
Time of year: “Spring”
Junk food: “Oreos”
What memory stands out when you think back on your times with Strawberry Canyon?
“I have so many good memories with the Berries it’s hard to pick just one. There were the paper plate awards, the long runs, tempos at Tilden, and running in the freezing snow at Club Nationals. I think one that stands out the most is the torrential downpour at the Tamalpa XC Meet two years ago. I vividly remember huddling under the tent for hours, racing on the muddy trails and eating delicious bagels and donuts afterwards. (I didn’t get to enjoy the beer!) It was a brutal but very memorable day.”
Future plans, running or otherwise?
“I’d like to continue working hard and improving the Cal team, and hopefully qualify for NCAAs. I definitely plan to keep running after college, and if I am in the Bay Area I would definitely like to return to the Berries. And in terms of my career, I am a music major and would like to do something in that field after graduation, but I’m still figuring out what exactly I want to do.”
The final uphill push of that Saturday long run at Chabot was a beast. As the run continued past the desired limit agreed on by the group at the outset, the accumulation of miles at a quick pace were taking a toll on everyone, and the diverted route led us on a homestretch that was fairly sinister. Not only was it all uphill, but there was no telling exactly how far from the trailhead we actually were. Emotions ranged from annoyed to uneasy, but Ben had no concerns. After reaching the end of my run, I saw Ben going back down the hill in the direction we all came from. Was I hallucinating due to dehydration and extreme exertion, or was he actually ADDING ON MILES?
When I hear origin stories of success, a certain amount of embellishment is usually assumed, but this particular example of work ethic made things a little more clear to me when I think about how a high school valedictorian and extremely talented jazz pianist is also this level of good as a runner, and an even higher level of good as a person. It’s just what Ben Harper does, or more accurately, who he is. As this Strawberry Canyoner would say- he’s definitely one of the sweetest berries in the bunch!
This post was written by Kyle Dunn.
The spring track and road race season is fast approaching, but the Berries have been steadily preparing, logging base mileage and returning to the track for weekly workouts to shake off the rust.
As always, we’ll be out at Cal’s Edwards Stadium track in Berkeley every Monday and Thursday at 6pm. Mondays feature interval work, meant improve speed and turnover, while Thursdays are tempo days, focusing on building endurance. We always welcome newcomers and friends to stop by to check out a few practices or drop in for a session!
It’ll be a busy season of racing, with track meets or road races almost every weekend. A full list of races can be found on our Calendar page, and a subset of key races through the end of May is listed below. Keep up with the latest from our races right here on our blog, and also on our Instagram and Facebook pages. We look forward to seeing you out there this season!
2018 Spring Racing Schedule
Key Track meets and Road Races
- January 20th / February 3rd / February 17th: Cal All-Comers, open track meets in Berkeley
- February 4th: Super Sunday Run 10k, PAUSATF Grand Prix in Sacramento
- March 3rd: NorCal John Frank Memorial 10 mile, PAUSATF Grand Prix in Redding
- March 10th: Aggie Open, open track meet in Davis
- March 11th: Reach for a Star 5k, PAUSATF Grand Prix in Brisbane
- March 17th: Hornet Open, open track meet in Sacramento
- March 30th-31st: SF State Distance Carnival, open track meet in Hayward
- April 8th: SACTOWN 10 mile, PAUSATF Grand Prix in Sacramento
- April 13th-14th: East Bay Invitational: open track meet in Hayward
- April 27th: Brutus Hamilton Open: open track meet with entry standards in Berkeley
- April 29th: Stow Lake Stampede 5k: PAUSATF Grand Prix in San Francisco
- May 5th: Sacramento State Open: open track meet with entry standards in Sacramento
- May 6th: Devil Mountain Mile of Truth: PAUSATF Grand Prix in Danville
- May 12th: Oxy Invite: open track meet with entry standards in Los Angeles
- May 20th: Bay to Breakers: classic road race in San Francisco