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 

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.

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.

1/16 – Spring Season Begins for SCTC

As Cal students head back to class this week, track season kicks into full swing for Strawberry Canyon Track Club.

The spring season features a full docket of track and road races. Strawberry Canyon is one of the few public running clubs in the region in which many runners focus the season on track races – it is an excellent opportunity to get in some speed work and work towards lifetime PRs. The racing season officially kicks off January 16th at our home track with the first of three Cal All-Comers Meets. The season will continue with meets nearly every weekend all the way through mid-May, concluding with the USF West Coast Last Chance Meet. See our calendar for the full list of meets we will be attending.

The coming months will also feature a slew of road races which are well attended by SCTC runners. Club favorites including the Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon, Oakland Running Festival, and Bay to Breakers headline the spring road race season. The Pacific Association Road Race Grand Prix for 2017 will also start in early March at the NorCal John Frank Memorial 10-Mile. A select list of key road races can also be found on our calendar.

If you are new to the area or are local and looking for a friendly and dedicated group to train with, feel free to come out to any of our practices! Track workouts take place every Monday and Thursday at Cal’s Edwards Track in Berkeley. We meet at the steeplechase pit on the north end of the track, arrive around 5:45 to warm up, and start workouts promptly at 6pm. We also regularly meet for long runs on the weekends, and as the weather warms, we will find our way to the most beautiful trails and running routes the Bay Area has to offer. Contact us directly if you would like to learn more, be added to our email list, or have any additional questions!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and on our NEW Instagram account to stay up to date with our latest adventures.

See you out there.

 

 

8/23 – Open Time Trial to be held August 31st

On Wednesday, Aug. 31st starting at 5:15, the Strawberry Canyon Track Club will host three sections of its well-regarded 5000-meter time trial as well as a 600-meter event. This is open to the public, plus runners from other clubs.

This fun and high-energy event brings the club together as well as runners from around the community. We are going to try and bring in both a massage therapist with a chair or table as well as a yoga instructor to keep people engaged. We will also have timers and possibly someone on hand to film this event. (Drone footage not ruled out)!

Runners may opt to run the 3200 meter distance in lieu of a 5000 and pull off the track after 8 laps. There will also be a 600-meter event for aspring middle-distance runers..

Schedule of events is as follows:

5:15 p.m.: 600-meters – open to all, one section

5:20 p.m. Section 1: A sub-19:00 section designed for the women attempting to walk on which will also have similarly paced men and masters runners, probably topping out at the sub-17:00 range..

5:45 p.m. Section 2: We’ll probably cap it at a low-16:00 benchmark, and we expect a few guys will be in the hunt to break 15:00.

6:10 p.m. Section 3: Open race for people at all ranges of ability. Some relatively fast people enter this and it normally spreads out a bit and ranges from 16-22 minutes.

Parking is a little iffy but Edwards track is two blocks from downtown Berkeley BART. Its entrance is about 150 meters up Schlessinger Rd. off of Oxford St., and its access point is just past the tennis courts. Do not park on campus, you’ll pay a pretty penny there. Parking meters run till 6:00 p.m. and you do want to plug those. Water fountain and restroom is available, gear storage is not.

Any further questions, contact Strawberry Canyon TC coach Carl Rose at coachcarlrose AT gmail DOT com.

Thom Trimble RIP 1959-2015

Thom-CIM

From the PAUSATF website: “Thom Trimble at the 2009 California International Marathon where, at age 50, he finished in 2:48.”

Our club has been absolutely devastated by the sudden passing on of a true legend, Thom Trimble. This has been felt beyond our club as well as the Pacific Association of USATF, as sentiments have been pouring in nationwide.

For the record, Thom Trimble died suddenly of a heart attack while out running In Newhall Park in Concord on Saturday morning of January 3rd. This loss has hit everyone hard and in the worst way.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Lothrop-Trimble, his former wife, Laurie Mathews, and two daughters. They, along with his closest friends in the club, John Monteverdi, Tim Keenan, Carl Rose, Bill Brusher, Jeff Teeters, Rob Elia, Bill Salacuse, Jeff Mann, Matt Bogdanowicz, as well as many of the former club members and younger members are in a profound state of shock and grief.

The word I keep hearing over and over with reference to Thom was “mentor” and he was just that. Thom and John Monteverdi founded the original East Bay Striders in 1983, and Carl Rose became a member in 1985. It became the Pacific Striders in the 1990s and coalesced into the Strawberry Canyon Track Club in 2009. Thom coached the club from 1983-2008 and then Carl Rose took over that role so he could spend more time with his family. Thom also wrote the dry and witty race write-ups that only he could create. His creative genius and dry wit will be sorely, sorely missed.

Thom was a very devoted family man who went to virtually every soccer game and track meet his daughters competed in. Not a bad word has been spoken about Thom.

Thom was also a fierce competitor, having run a 1:09.28 at the SF Home Depot Half Marathon in 1991, which still stands as our club record. Thom was also a monster, particularly in cross country races. He ran a 2:48 marathon at Cal International marathon at age 50.

Thom’s health was always very sound, excepting a spate of running-related injuries. Still, being lean, active and trim and with a happy and positive attitude, this took us all by surprise.

So our advice to all masters runners is PLEASE GO AND GET YOURSELVES CHECKED OUT!

This terrible news has shaken every member of our club to the core. It particularly affects his family as his daughters will now be without a father, and his wife will now be widowed. We are beyond grief-stricken and don’t really know quite how to memorialize a true legend. But one thing is – Thom was a competitor till the end. His last email to me (coach) was a link on how to improve hamstring strength to prevent injuries, which was something he had been coping with. I received this two days before he passed.

RIP Thom Trimble. We lost a great friend, coach, mentor, father figure, and your void will be irreplaceable. If anyone is interested in any sort of a fundraiser, contributions can be made to the Thom Trimble Memorial Fund for the education of his daughters (Wells Fargo Bank account #5242617735).

Thom

Humboldt Half Marathon, 2011.

NorCal10, 2012

The master’s gang at the NorCal 10 miler, 2012.

Trimble - 4th in 50-54 10,000m

USATF club track nationals. Thom finished 4th in 50-54 10,000m!

3/10 – Tough Day at Davis

Aggie Open 5KResults

Hola Canyoneros

Nine Berries went to run at the UC Davis Aggies Invite and it ended up being a wind-blown affair which threw times and races off-kilter.

Mei-tung Chen opened up most optimistically, running a 19:52.32 5000 in the wind, wisely tucking in behind a De Anza runner for the majority of the race and somehow managing a 26-second PR, and this was the race of the day for the Canyon.

The breeze kicked up a notch for the men’s 5000, which was a bit disappointing for the athletes who put themselves out there on the line. Perhaps it was a combination of the wind, some poor coaching on my part, feeling under-the-weather, some were not in shape yet, not enough sleep or hydration, etc., whatever it was, some little things added up and four runners ran a good 40-60 seconds slower than their projected ability. (Rory Runser 16:20, Dayu Tao 16:40, Gene Burinsky 16:47, and Jonathan Nolasco 17:25).

With that out of the way the 1500 came next. Jonathan McKinley showed flashes of speed and ran a 4:11.18, his fastest time of the year. I think he will be sub-4:00 before the season is said and done. Irtaza Haider ran a 4:21.15, almost five full seconds off his PR, but probably a stronger performance than his actual PR given the wind.

The 800s came later in the day and both Niko Conner and Brandon Reyes were buffeted by the wind, pulling 2:06 marks. It was Niko’s first track race in many seasons, so he was blowing off the rust, but Brandon got boxed in by a pesky orange-singleted runner and was thrown off his game somewhat. It was a learning experience to be sure as middle-distance races can be characterized by some annoying pushing and shoving tactics.

Anyhow, thank you all for going to that meet and giving it the old college try. We may reconsider this venue next year, as both Davis and Sacramento have proven to be risky in terms of the windy weather for us. And if that many of us were flat, I will certainly need to consider backing some of you off on the workouts a bit between now and the end of the season.

Cheers!

Carl

 

3/3 – NorCal 10 Mile Results

Results

At the Nor Cal 10-mile in Redding our masters team sent seven competitors and came away with a solid second place team finish. It would seem that our team scorers all ran strong races.

Bill Reed edged out Tim Keenan for the third seniors spot. Bill ran 59:50 and Tim ran 59:55 in warm conditions, over a minute faster than Tim ran in 2012.

Bill Salacuse ran arguably his best race as a masters runner with a great 62:16 mark. Thom Trimble is marching along on the comeback trail, claiming the 9th senior spot with a time of 63:37. Alan Dehlinger rounded out the scoring. Jeff Teeters jogged in with a sore hamstring and Rick Massey also finished.

– Carl

12/8 – Secretary Leefer Scores Noble Victory

It is proper and indeed healthy for the spirit of any nobleman or noblewoman to engage the peasantry on rare occasions. However, one must always maintain such boundaries as befit one’s standing in society. So demonstrated Nathan Leefer on this sunny Saturday at the “Hark the Herald Angels 12K,” gamely pacing with the peasantry for 11.8 kilometers before distancing the fittest of his companions by forty seconds in the final two hundred meters. A fine victory, earned true and straight!

1. Nathan Leefer    46:18.9

2. Everyone else    Slower

Results