7/27 – The Mammoth Journals

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

Mammoth Bound

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.

In the High Sierras

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.”

Indeed.

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.

First Encounters

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.

Nature

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?

Altitude

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.

Berries ready to run

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.

Will powers up the trails to Duck Pass

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.

Switchbacks near Duck Pass

“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.

Duck Lake

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.

The Horseshoe Lake bike path

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.

Fontana Speedway

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!”

Bureaucracy

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.

Hot Springs

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.

Algernon

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.

Quick stream crossing on the trail to Morgan Pass

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.

Julia crests Morgan Pass

“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.

Will, Sid, Joseph, and Colin near Morgan Pass

This post was written by Will Edwards.

6/3 – 27 Club Records Set as Epic Spring Season Comes to a Close

Strawberry Canyon Track Club competed in both road and track races in the Spring 2018 season

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. 

Lots of Berries putting in the early season work at a Monday interval session

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
*Club’s all-time best age-grade performance, 94.68% at the Sacramento State Open
** USATF National Masters 10k Champion, 37:19 at the James Joyce Ramble
*** USATF National Masters 25k Champion, 1:40:13 at the River Bank Run
 
But to look only at the records is to see only a small part of the story of the season’s success. 
 

On the track

The temporary closure of SFSU’s track lead to a circuit with a different look than usual. As is tradition, however, the season started with the three Cal All-Comers meets in January and February on our home track. A great opportunity to shake off the cobwebs and get the feel for race pace, these meets, along with a trip down to Los Gatos for their All-Comers meet, served as the launching point for the season.
 

Madeline Duhon runs to a 5000m club record at the UC Davis Aggie Open

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.  

Ryan Smith competes at the Cal Brutus Hamilton Open

May brought about the final meets of the season with the Sacramento State Open and Oxy Invitational. These meets again had a high concentration of breakout races, most notably the setting of the club’s all-time age grade performance by Tom LeGan in Sacramento with a 4:10.97 1500, corresponding to an astounding 94.68% age grade, at the age of 51.
 
While the major spring meets have come to a close, some Berries are diligently pushing forward towards some summer meets. More fast times sure to come!
 

On the roads

SCTC “B” Centipede placed 8th at Bay to Breakers

While the spring has historically been reserved for track within SCTC, in 2018 the open men decided to try their hand in the PAUSATF road circuit. The year-long Grand Prix is but halfway through, however it is off to a promising start. The Open Men have locked down 2nd place team finishes at the SACTOWN Run 10 mile and Devil Mountain Run Mile of Truth; 3rd place finishes at the NorCal John Frank Memorial 10 mile and Stow Lake Stampede; and 4th place finishes at the Super Sunday Run 10k and Reach for a Star 5k. The Open Women also scored their first ever roads team, debuting with a strong 2nd place finish at the SACTOWN Run 10 mile.
 
Outside of the PAUSATF, some seriously impressive road performances took place. Kicking things off, Jonathan Briskman won San Francisco’s Hot Chocolate 15k, setting a club record in the process. In the Boston Marathon in treacherous conditions, John Hill won the Senior Men’s division, also setting a club record. Meanwhile, guest member Jen Bayliss won three (!) USATF Masters National Championships, the cross country title in Tallahassee in January, the 10k road title at the James Joyce Ramble, and the 25k road title at the River Bank Run.

SCTC “A” Centipede placed 3rd at Bay to Breakers

The season’s final hurrah went down in late May at Bay to Breakers. For the first time, Strawberry Canyon fielded two full centipede teams (which involves attaching 13 people together to complete the 12k course as a single unit). Now a club favorite tradition, the two squads finished 3rd and 8th in the competitive centipede division, competing against several other PAUSATF rivals.

Happy Berries after Bay to Breakers

The road season will continue all summer long, with the Across the Bay 12k, Los Gatos One Mile Bang, Morgan Hill Freedom Fest 5k, and of course, Wharf to Wharf, coming up in June and July. Others will take a well deserved break after a long and rewarding spring season. But then it’s back to work, and training will begin for others for SCTC’s marquee season, cross country. We’ll be practicing throughout the summer and hitting the trails around the Bay Area and beyond for some destination long runs. See you out there!
 

3/28 – From Berry to Golden Bear

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.

At the Santa Clara Broncos XC Invite in 2017

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.”

First race as a Golden Bear at the Cal Opener in March

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.”

Time trialing with SCTC in spring 2017

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? 

Ben with Coach Carl

“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.

1/15 – Spring Racing Begins – Join Us This Season!

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 

1/1 – Coach Carl’s Tips to Achieve Your 2018 Race Resolutions

Coach Carl shares ten handy tips that can make an immediate difference in your race performances:
 
1. Pace yourself properly. The heady combination of pre-race adrenaline and pent up energy associated with a taper prompts many athletes to go out too hard, and most of the greatest mistakes in a longer race are made in the first 45-60 seconds. Do your best to control that first portion of the race, and parse your effort very evenly. Think of the boiled lobster analogy, what feels great at minute one won’t seem as optimal twenty minutes later.
 
2. If you are feeling lethargic and it’s not iron-related, take a harder look at your Vitamin D levels. Note that Vitamin D “functions like a hormone.” These can fluctuate seasonally (winter brings less light than summer). Fish oil aka “happy fat” is your friend. Also, if you change lifestyles, (i.e. you land an indoor desk job) this can have a dramatic effect on Vitamin D levels.    
 
3. In longer road races and marathons you can take a gel, shake it in your water bottle, and drink them together. This is much easier than trying to swallow a sticky gel mid-race and chase it with water.
 
4. In old school races providing only paper cups, cut a straw into three sections and place them in your watch band. It is a cleaner way to sip those mid-race fluids.
 
5. Don’t sprint through aid stations. It is better to slow down a minute or even two minutes per mile, make sure you obtain your fluid, and then speed up again. The time lost is negligible and the replenishment of reserves is vital.
 
6. On hills in cross country or trail races, shorten your stride and work on your cadence (turnover) and paw back (push-off). Most people tend to maintain their stride length, which creates an over-stride on the uphills and this consumes a lot more energy. Conversely, on the downhills, take a longer stride but don’t reach out too far that you brake.
 
7. Disclaimer: Coffee is not for everyone. But if you drink coffee, drink it at least three hours before the start of your race. If you drink coffee daily, take three or four days off of coffee before a big race for a “super-kick.” If you have never drank coffee, try it before a workout first before rolling the dice and drinking it before a race.
 
8. Dynamic stretching before workouts, static stretching after workouts. Sometimes a little moderate static stretching before bed helps you sleep if you are feeling antsy.
 
9. Sleep is one of your best training allies, especially the week before a big race. This is when growth hormone repairs hard working muscles.
 
10. Don’t eat an entire Tacos Sinaloa super burrito 15 minutes before the start of your championship race. Thought it may be a shock to many, this can generate some concerning mid-race digestive prompts.
 
Written by Coach Carl Rose.

12/9 – Six Compete at USATF National Club XC Championships

Though most of the Strawberries closed the fall racing season out with the Pacific Association Cross Country Championships, several decided to stretch it a bit longer, and December saw some big races for the club. At the California International Marathon, Regina Scarpin, Silvio Temprana, and John Hill all performed impressively. Regina capped off a great cross country season with a huge 35 minute PR, finishing in 2:55:15, which ranks her as one of Argentina’s best marathoners in 2017. John, also coming off a season of consistently strong races on the cross country circuit, narrowly missed a club record in the 50-54 division with his time of 2:44:45. And Silvio made his marathon debut in 3:24:25, looking confident and smiling even in the last miles of the race.

The following week, a small band of Berries looking for just one more slice of cross country action headed to Club Nationals in Lexington, KY. The championship race is always a thrilling and humbling experience, as hundreds of top runners from around the country aim to make this the peak of their fall racing season. Individuals shined, but Strawberry Canyon did not field any full teams for this year’s installment, with Vanessa Lordi in the master’s race; Megan Gentes and Elizabeth Ordeman representing the open women; and Ben Harper, Matt Perez, and Ryan Smith in the open men’s race.

Strawberries in Lexington

A Friday evening arrival for most of the racers meant little time to explore Lexington, but Vanessa Lordi, who arrived a day earlier, toured the course at Masterson Station Park and gave the rest of us a report the day before. Grassy, with smooth rolling hills, the format was fairly straightforward: two 3k loops for the women, and the same route preceded by a 4k loop for the men.  There was an unpleasant steady climb at the end of each loop, including through the finish line, but it was widely agreed afterwards that this was some fun running.

The next morning, the team bundled up and gathered at the course, where the breeze helped the sub-freezing temperatures to penetrate our California-softened skin.  Vanessa Lordi was the first to take off, after her family made a surprise appearance at the start line. After the signature Berry cheer hit the national stage, she was off.  She started a bit fast, and faded later on, but she managed to regroup for a strong kick and crossed the line in 62nd place with a time of 27:20.

Megan Gentes, newly minted Cal alumnus, and Elizabeth Ordeman, Cal freshman, were off next. Both ran smart races. It was clear from the start that Megan was feeling strong, and her new 6K PR of 21:44 was a real highlight, earning her 92nd place in a field packed with seriously fast folks. The cold racing conditions were more familiar to Elizabeth the Ohioan than the rest of us, and her family came to support. She has turned in strong race after strong race in her first season with the club; Nationals was no exception as she crossed in 22:33.

Megan and Elizabeth lined up

Last to race were the open men. As they approached the 3K mark, white flakes began to drift down, increasing to a steady snowfall by the end of the race. Ben paced well, catching Ryan in the last few meters. He was happy with his new 10K PR of 32:13, proving that his talent extends over a wide range of distances. Without a full team scoring, Ryan decided to play things just a little bit riskier than usual. He paid for early moves with a feeble finish, but was able to hold on long enough for a decent race, finishing in 32:14 in 143rd place. Matt claimed a PR as well, running 38:45 and finishing in 401st place. After wrapping up a season of new bests, he is excited to hit the track in the spring.

Ryan, Ben and Matt before the start

With numb hands and faces, cool downs were cut in favor of warmth and food. After an Indian lunch, Megan and Ryan got ready to fly back home. Ben and Matt took a little more time to explore, enjoying breakfast and a hike before they headed back to Berkeley the next day. Now these Berries are in hibernation mode, before a gradual ramp up to the spring racing season.

Written by Ryan Smith and Megan Gentes.

11/19 – Berries Wrap-Up Pacific Association XC Season

On a cool November Sunday morning in Lindley Meadow, as the call for Strawberries to assemble echoed through Lindley Meadow, the Strawberry Canyon Track Club prepared to toe the line and conclude another successful cross country season at the PAUSATF Championships in Golden Gate Park.

Months earlier, the Senior’s (50+) Men opened the season up at the UC Santa Cruz XC Open on August 19th. Tom LeGan, still a month before running his awe-inspiring mile, won the Senior’s division with John Hill close behind in third, and Bill Brusher rounding out the team.

Kevin Petow at the Phil Widner Empire Open in August

A couple weeks later, the Open Women’s and Men’s teams joined the Senior’s team at the Phil Widener Empire Open in Santa Rosa. In the first race of the day, the women put a strong team together, finishing second as team behind a 3-4 finish from Julia Sizek and Megan Gentes. The Senior’s Men followed, scoring fourth place as a team. The Open Men also finished second, exhibiting their depth behind top 10 performances from Kevin Petow and Jonathan Briskman.

More Berries made their season debut in mid-September to test out a variation of the traditional championship course at the Golden Gate Park Open in San Francisco. The Open Women edged out the Aggies to take second place, with Tamma Carleton finishing in the top 10 individually. The Super Senior’s (60+) men scored their first race of the season, finishing fifth. The Open Men finished third as a team, with Ben Harper cracking the top 10.

Bill Brusher at the Phil Widener Empire Open in August

After sitting out the Rebels XC Open, the Berries returned to action at Hayward’s Garin Park XC Challenge in late September. The Open Men started off the action, narrowly finishing third with Ryan Smith leading the way with a sixth place finish. The Senior’s Men started to round into form, placing second with Rob Elia, John Hill, and Jeff Mann each finishing top 10 in the division. The Open Women also took third as a team, with Megan Gentes placing seventh individually.

In the highlight meet of the season, the early October Willow Hills XC Open in Folsom, saw team victories from the Open Women and Men. In the women’s race, Megan Gentes, Regina Scarpin, Elizabeth Ordeman, and Molly Schassberger all finished in the top 10, while Vanessa Lordi finished eighth in the Women’s Master’s division. The Senior’s Men again finished second, with John Hill, Jeff Mann, Tim Keenan, and Bill Reed finishing in the top 10 in the division. In the Open Men’s race, Ryan Smith took the win individually, and was followed closely by Kyle Dunn, Kevin Petow, and Harmen Hoek, each placing in the top 10. The Open Men also scored a “B” team, which took third as a team.

Tamma Carleton (right) in the lead pack at PAUSATF XC Championships

At the Aggies XC Open in Martinez, the Senior’s Men shined, winning their race as a team behind top 10 division runs from John Hill, Jeff Man, and Bill Reed. For the Open Men, Ryan Smith cracked the top 10 in the Aggie dominated race, pulling the Berries to a third place finish. The Open Women did not field a team, but Megan Gentes finished fifth overall individually.

In the final tune-up before championships at the John Lawson Tamalpa Challenge in San Rafael, the Open Women and Men both finished second as a team, with Tamma Carleton and Megan Gentes finishing the in the top 10 for the women, and Ben Harper and Ryan Smith in the top 10 for the men.

Open Women at the PAUSATF XC Championships

At the Association Championships, the Strawberries brought their A-game to take on  highly competitive and elite fields. In the Open Women’s race, Tamma Carleton led the way, finishing 11th overall. Megan Gentes, Regina Scarpin, Elizabeth Ordeman, and Sylvia Jebiwott (just 2 weeks after a strong run at the New York City Marathon), rounded off the scoring team with a fifth place team finish. In the Senior’s race, Rob Elia paced teammates John Hill, Tim Keenan, Carl Rose, and Bill Brusher, finishing third as a team. The Master’s (40+) Men did not score a team, but saw George Torgun make his Master’s debut by finishing ninth overall in the race. For the Open Men, Ryan Smith’s 19th place finish led the Berries to fourth place team finish, with Kevin Petow, Jonathan Briskman, Ben Harper, and Kyle Dunn making up the rest of the scoring team.

Open Men at the PAUSATF XC Championships

The season of steady, consistent performances was rewarded in the end-of-season PAUSATF Grand Prix Standings. For the Open Women, Megan Gentes (4th), Elizabeth Ordeman (10th), Regina Scarpin (12th), Tamma Carleton (16th), Megan Lang (20th) and Kim Sanchez (24th) all finished in the top 30 in the final standings, finishing second as a team on the year. The Senior’s Men finished tied for third, with John Hill (6th), Tim Keenan (18th), Jeff Mann (19th) and Rob Elia (23rd) achieving top 30 finishes. Additionally, Scott Strait (Super Seniors, 29th) finished in the top 30 in his division. Finally, the Open Men wrapped up at tied for second in the team standings with top 30 standings from Ryan Smith (3rd), Ben Harper (5th), Kevin Petow (6th), Jonathan Briskman (12th), Kyle Dunn (14th), Matt Weber (28th), and Kyle Bystrom (30th) over the course of the PAUSATF XC season.

A handful of Berries will make the trip Lexington, Kentucky for the USATF Club Cross Country Championships on December 9th, before attention turns towards the track and roads in 2018.

9/12 – LeGan Runs Club’s All-Time Top Performance

The club achieved its new high-water mark in our all-time track and field accomplishment list when Tom LeGan roared to an unprecedented 4:32.80 mile on Sept. 12, 2017 at age 51. His stratospheric 94.06% age grading performance claimed the club’s top-ranked performance in history, and was the equivalent of an open 3:56.7 mile.

After missing months of training in the early part of the year, Tom cleaned up well and had finally started to show signs of getting fit, but was it too late? It appeared that the track season was totally lost, but Tom started feeling solid right as the Los Gatos summer All-Comers meets were drawing to a close, and he dusted off the rust with a 4:45 mile against virtually no competition in July.

In the last scheduled Los Gatos All-Comers meet of the season, ill fortune struck. The meet was hastily canceled at the last minute due to an inopportunely timed high school band photo shoot. Undaunted, Tom’s sons, Carlo and Rosino, had both made the journey up to Los Gatos to watch their pops take his time down and since there was no actual race, they pushed Tom to just go for it and rip it in a time-trial. Though he invariably eased off in the middle of the race due to the lack of competition, he still managed to blow out an unofficial 4:38.7 mile, and Tom sensed he had a few more seconds in him with proper competition.

We all shared in the same emotion – what a frustrating way to end the season! It had seemingly ended before Tom could even really show his stuff, and we were looking at a disappointing off-season of “what ifs.” But all was not lost, as Coach Carl and the club’s resident masters track guru Matt Bogdanowicz, did a little research and realized that the Tamalpa Running Club had its last all-comers meet on September 12th!

So off we went to the underrated track at Terra Linda High School on a balmy, slightly breezy evening. Leaving nothing to chance, we recruited two club members as pacers, Ben Harper and Ryan Smith, with the goal of helping Tom break 4:30- a highly audacious goal given his fitness level, only five seconds off of Nolan Shaheed’s existing world record of 4:25.04. Going back into the crates of yore, Tom also sported a 4:05 (mile) and 1:48.98 (800-meter) PR from his college days, plus ran a formidable 9:07 for 3200 meters in high school, so he clearly has an excellent pedigree.

With the race underway, pacers Ryan and Ben smoothly clicked through the first lap in 67 seconds as Tom hung doggedly on their heels. When they reached the 800 in 2:13 and Tom still looked smooth, everyone in attendance realized that this was in fact not a laughing matter, and you could sense the crowd’s electricity at that point. By the time Ben and Ryan had towed Tom through the third lap in 3:20.46, pandemonium had ensued as everyone, friends and rivals, had gotten to their feet and started yelling for Tom at the top of their lungs. Tom did fall off rather abruptly in the last lap (a 72.36) but this massive effort showed that, with more strength, he could have held or exceeded that pace.

LeGan being paced by Smith and Harper 400m in. Photo by Franklin Ruona.

This performance took everything he had, but he was really not at 100% given the months of missed training. Between that and the fact that he is now training with the young guys in Berkeley for Monday’s speedy track workouts, it’s a safe bet that the record is in the cross hairs for next spring…if we can keep him healthy, always a big if for those seniors runners. But…with that said, watch out for Tom LeGan, the hype is going to be building before we know it.

Whatever happens going forward, this was an international-class mark for the ages – and Masters Track (out of North Carolina) did in fact put together a write-up of Tom’s race. Kudos remains in order for his legendary performance.

Written by Coach Carl Rose.

7/9 – Coach’s Recap – 2017 Spring Season in Review

The Strawberry Canyon Track Club went on a furious tear during the 2017 spring racing season. Numerous club members dove into the record book, turning in shiny new PRs on the ovals and roads all over northern California and beyond. We started off innocuously enough at the Cal All-Comers meets held in late winter, and the season culminated at the prestigious track meets held at UC Berkeley and SF State. One of the biggest surprises of the year was the volume of PRs turned in at the low-key Cal State East Bay meet held at Chabot College in April. We also seem to have manifested a serious sprinting program! I am bound to miss a few results, but PRs and significant breakthroughs included:
  • Stephen Sloan 4:08.65 (1500 – a 3+ second PR),
  • Kyle Bystrom 4:05.49 (1500 – a six-second PR) and 1:55.72 (800 – 0.26-second PR)
  • Erik Stein 1:56.02 (800 – a high school junior – 4.89-second PR!) and dropped from a 4:35 to 4:27 in the high school distance of 1600  meters (8 seconds)
  • Megan Gentes 4:46.39 (1500 – ten second PR!)
  • Stephen Bailey, who set at least 10 PRs this spring – 25.14 (200 – a 0.36-second PR) 54:89 (400 – a 1.67-second PR) and 1:00.38 (400 hurdles – a 2.30-second PR)
  • Ben Harper 3:58.47 (1500 – a 6-second PR)
  • Paul Green, who dropped from 4:08 to 3:57.20 in the 1500
  • Colin Gannon  4:16.25 (1500 – a 2+ second PR) and 15:28.45 (5000 – a 2+ second PR)
  • Matt Bogdanowicz 58.08 (400 – age 45-49 age group PR
  • William (Sammy) Euerle 4:02.41 (1500 – a 3+ second PR)
  • Cielo Aguilar 4:16.81 (1500 a 4+ second PR)
  • Matt Weber 4:11.28 (a 12-second PR!) and 15:39.62 (5000 – a 22-second PR!)
  • Ed Hill 4:12.09 (a 3+ second 1500-meter PR at age 39!)
  • George Torgun 15:20.50 (5000 – a 3+ second PR at age 39!)
  • Eugene Yang 26.20 (200 – a 2+ second PR),Max Krall set a 7-second PR in the 800 (2:08), and small PRs 1500 and Mile
  • Matt Perez’s PR in the 1500 after many years
  • Jonathan Briskman dipped under the 15:00 barrier in the 5000 with a time of 14:56.66. Earlier in the season he also set a new club track record in the 10000-meter event with an impressive mark of 31:13.93
  • Kevin Petow dropped 22 seconds off of his 5000-meter PR with an impressive breakthrough time of 15:10
  • Regina Scarpin debuted in the 5000 turning in an 18:45.65 time in her first attempt at a track race

We also shined on the roads as elder statesmen John Hill, Chafik Azerki, Tommy Harp, Eric Gullikson, Rob Elia, Tim Keenan and Alan Dehlinger all made appearances at several PA-USATF races including the Redding John Frank Memorial 10-mile road race in March (which was held on a new and challenging course due to flooding), the SacTown Ten-Mile in April, the Stow Lake 5K also in April, and the Marin 10K on Memorial Day. Tom Harp finally broke 38 minutes at the Marin race, a huge run for him, while Eric Gullikson broke 40 minutes for the 10K at age 62, his first time under 40 in four years and a monumental feat at 60+. Meanwhile, in the East Bay, the women consisting of our dream team quartet of Megan Lang, Julia Sizek, Tamma Carleton and Megan Gentes crushed the Oakland Marathon relay in a 30-minute victory over second-place, while the open men took second in the relay. Also, Jen Sung did well in the half-marathon.Speaking of half-marathons, we can’t overlook Jonathan Briskman’s effort at the Phoenix Rock ‘n’ Roll Half and full Marathon, in which Jonathan took an impressive 4th overall in 1:07.42 on the half-marathon course which unfortunately had just enough downhill to render it ineligible for club record purposes.

And earlier in the winter, Ashley Lin PR’d by two minutes with a 1:26.42 effort at the SF Kaiser Half Marathon in February.
And we  also brought nearly 20 Strawberry Canyon TC runners to the Devil Mountain road races in Danville in early May. Megan Lang and Silvia Jebiwott went 1-2 in the women’s 10K, and Matt Weber and Mitch Negus went 2-3 in the men’s 10K. John Hill and Tim Keenan swept the top two spots in the 50-59 age group while Erik Gullikson claimed the 60-69 age group title, while shocking a very competitive local runner in that age group. In the day’s elite road mile, Megan Gentes PR’d with a marvelous 5:12 performance, a new club record. Paul Green took third in the road mile (4:24) and was followed by Cielo Aguilar (4:38 – also a PR), Ed Hill, Colin Gannon, Max Krall and so on.

In other venues, Ashley Lin ran a 3:08 marathon at Boston, missing her PR by one minute in sweltering conditions while Jack Wallace PR’d by five minutes in 2:47, and Sylvia Jebiwott went back East to snare an 80-second half-marathon 1:25.34 PR at the Brooklyn Half. Also in NYC, Regina Scarpin ran in the Mini-Marathon 10K in Central Park later that month ‘for fun’ in just under 41 minutes. That same day, Tamma Carleton threw down the gauntlet at the Sugarloaf 15K road race in Maine, blitzing the course in 55 minutes and 59 seconds, which is a club record or second behind Julia Sizek’s 59:04 10-mile time from 2015. Also in the month of May, we razzle-dazzled the crowds with the sharp-looking, all-white Peet’s Cold Brew-sponsored Centipede at the 2017 Bay to Breakers.

With 13 + two extra open men sporting a clean look in matching singlets and white/black ball caps, we put together an impressive crew. They overcame some choppy strategical nuances in their first go at the race, and the guys adapted well and clipped off a respectable 5:45 mile pace to finish third in its inaugural netting a time of 42 minutes and 45 seconds. Finally, a special congratulations can be sent to East Bay Triple Crown winner Ashley Lin, who cleaned up a prestigious early summer trail grand prix title with impressive races at the Tilden Tuff Ten Mile (2nd), Lake Chabot Half-Marathon (1st) and Woodmonster Hill trail run (3rd). And yes, we did have two runners competing at the DipSea for good measure (John Hill, George Torgun), as well as Colin Gannon replicating his 18th-place finish at the Litchfield Hills road race in his native state of Connecticut.

In winding down the first half of the year, at the One Mile Bang in Los Gatos, the irrepressible Chafik Azerki notched a 4:38 mile and he’s closing in on age 45, while Alan Dehlinger ran 5:31 at age 56. The same two Canyoneros competed well at the July 4th Morgan Hill Freedom Fest 5K, and Chafik was second masters runner with a fast time of 16:27, while Alan D. was exactly three minutes slower in 19:27. However some real fireworks were turned in at the Alameda 4th of July 5K race, in which the Canyon swept the 1-2 spots. Particularly impressive was the monstrous breakthrough turned in by Cielo Aguilar, who PR’d by over one minute and nearly skipped the 16s entirely with a speedy time of 16:01. Kyle Dunn, after missing the spring track season with an ankle injury sustained at the PA cross country championships in November, turned in a very solid 16:06. Ed Hill cruised to a 17:20 which was good for 7th place, his goal was to hit his planned Wharf to Wharf pace.

Overall it was a very exciting season for the Canyon with many more exciting seasons to follow.

Written by Coach Carl Rose

 

5/21 – Peet’s Cold Brew Centipede Runs Bay to Breakers

Peet’s Cold Brew Centipede in Golden Gate Park. Photo by Kim Sanchez.

Strawberry Canyon Track Club kicked off its new partnership with Peet’s Coffee at the 2017 Bay to Breakers this week, running as the Peet’s Cold Brew Centipede. 

15 Berries tied themselves together for the legendary 12km race across the city of San Francisco. With a time of 42:45, Peet’s Cold Brew Centipede finished 3rd in the centipede division.

Jonathan Briskman, Ryan Smith, Paul Green, Geoff Leonhardt, Dylan Verner-Crist, Dan Kramer, Colin Gannon, Matt Weber, Jack Wallace, Mitch Negus, Ed Hill, Chafik Azerki, Kevin Petow, Ryan Lok, and Kyle Dunn ran on the ‘pede.

Heading into the summer, Strawberry Canyon will have a strong presence at the upcoming local road race classics, including the Marin Memorial Day 10k and Wharf to Wharf.