The Empire Runners Club has a long-standing commitment to providing scholarships to deserving student athletes of Sonoma County making the transition from high school to college. Made possible by dues and contributions from our members, we are giving our 4 recipients a total of $2250 in scholarship awards this year. All club members should be proud of the part they play in this most wonderful of traditions through generous donations.
This year’s group of SGF recipients have lived through a historically trying 4 years. If it wasn’t being impacted by fires in our own backyard with destruction of homes, lives and livelihoods then it was weeks of extremely poor AQI due to smoke from fires up to hundreds of miles away. Then 2020 showed up with a worldwide plague the likes we have not experienced before. Our SGF group now had to deal with masks, staying at home minimizing contact with friends and online zoom school due to Covid.
Even the shortened XC and Track seasons, which happened only through an immense amount of work by the administrators, ADs and Coaches to comply with Public Health standards, were less than satisfying for our athletes. (A great big thank you to all of those that worked to make even a shortened season a reality). So, to say there was ever a ‘normal’ season for our athletes would be a gross understatement. Yet our 4 SGF recipients did indeed persevere and achieve, with one of them running top times in the 800,1600 and 3200 setting school records at all 3 distances.
Our first SGF recipient ran track all 4 years at Santa Rosa HS and XC 3 years. She had excellent times in the 100m, 200m and 400m as well was a top performer and anchor for the 4x100m relay. During her sophomore year her relay team ran the second fastest time in SRHS track and field history. One of her best memories was participating as a freshman at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational. Her future track goals are to continue running track in College.
Her coaches have stated that she wasn’t only a great athlete but also a great teammate who helped improve other runners’ success and experiences. Her dream is to go to a University and get her bachelor’s degree in Nursing. She was accepted to her dream college, USF and will start there in the Fall.
Our first recipient of the Empire Runner SGF Scholarship is Santa Rosa High School’s Anastasia Wong.
Our second SGF recipient was a busy man at Casa Grande HS. He ran XC 3 years and Track all 4 years while maintaining an unweighted GPA of 3.70 and filled his spare time with the Tech Club and Science Olympiad as well as working and volunteering (Salvation Army Food Drive, Una Vida, 3D Hope and Adobe Christian Church.
Highlights of his XC exploits include a Spring Lake Course best of 16:21, 3rd Team All-Empire in 2019 and a trip to the State HS XC Championships where he finished 3rd for Casa Grande in 16:51 for the full 5K. He was also All-League and XC team MVP. On the track he had a best of 10:13 in the 3200 and was an NCS Scholar Runner 7 times.
Our second SGF recipient will continue running in college and is currently running with the Bearcubs of SRJC.
We are proud to congratulate the former Gaucho Luke Baird upon receiving this scholarship.
Our third recipient ran track all four years at Montgomery HS. He started out as a Jake of all trades for the track team, running both hurdles, the long jump and the sprints. His true love was the sprints however and he continued in the 100m, 200m, long jump and added the 4x100m relay. His natural ability and hard work garnered him the top sprinter at Monty in sophomore year. He has had more than his share difficulties since the pandemic but kept at it and finished his senior season with FAT PRs of 11.49 in the 100m and 23.66 in the 200m, with his 4×100 relay best time 46.09.
His plan is to continue his running exploits to SRJC this year and hopes to improve all of his times and then transfer to a 4-year college and major in computer science. We all wish the best of fortune for our 3rd recipient of a scholarship, the former Viking and current Bearcub, Jake Maltby.
Our 4th and final SGF recipient not only was a 4-year Varsity XC/Track and Field veteran but also played basketball for 3 years. After his sophomore season his goals included a plan to run in college at the Division 1 level and adjusted his life (mileage, nutrition and sleep) accordingly.
His plan and hard work have paid off with multiple MVP, All league and All Empire awards in both XC and Track. In his senior year facing a limited XC and Track schedule locally, he signed up for 3 events in Arizona and Texas and travelled there for the necessary competition. Long story short this SGF recipient achieved school records in the 800m (1:55.14), 1600m (4:15.63), 3200m (9:25.83) and 5K (15:40). He also ran open 400m and was a member of the 4x400m Relay and has a 15:40 PR on the Spring Lake Course in XC.
Space doesn’t permit all of the team awards to be presented but I am guessing one of his favorite awards is the Sarah Sumpter Award for Biggest Heart and Team Captain. His athletic achievements were matched by his scholastic career with a 3.85 non-weighted GPA, Class Rank of #5 and 8-time NCS Scholar award winner. All of these achievements happened while he maintained a job at Healdsburg RC, interned at the Healdsburg FD and volunteered at CarePortal, Mexico Mission Trip (First Presbyterian Church) and Healdsburg Shared Ministries.
Even though his goal was to run NCAA D1 in college he has found a collegiate home in Santa Barbara at NAIA Westmont College. This former Greyhound from Healdsburg HS has become a Westmont Warrior.
Much like the rest of 2020 (and it appears some of 2021), there is no normalcy for the running community and races. We will continue to have virtual “runs” or “challenges”, but please don’t call them races. There is none of the excitement of producing the event, setting it up, and the actual race for the virtual events. This has been going on for 9 months and will continue for at least 3-6 more months (pray for less). Yet it seems that we have adjusted to the events and most of us look forward to them. Those on Strava seemingly join new virtual events weekly and monthly. So for the short term the virtual event is the norm, if that is the right term, and along with training helps keep the sanity.
The virtual version of the revered Phaby-Gray Run spanned 4 days (12/29-1/1), and was to be run solo in a Covid safe manner on a 5K course of your choice which could include the PTP course, be timed by oneself and the results sent to the Empire Runner site. For all of that, 75 Grand Prix points were awarded to all GP recipients. Yet with no chance to race for age group points, no winners shirts and no raffle gifts/giveaways, still more than 50 officially entered and a number of unofficial entrants completed the run. This a testament to the impact of running/training and racing on our lives.
I was more than happy to mark the course and with help of many set up and record the event. I would like to thank Tanya, Dale, Andrea, Margaret and Robert for all of their efforts. With help we were able to provide course maps, videos and written directions on the PTP and 2 close by options. We thank you for your participation and hope you enjoyed the event. Hopefully next year we will be back to a big Resolution race complete with donut holes, winners shirts and age group gifts and a cool raffle.
RACE DAY (uh I mean run day):
As is my norm I showed up at PTP at 07:45 under the shadow of tule fog and sub 35 degree temps. I began course marking at the turnaround when the first runners of the day showed up coming my way. By the time I finished course marking and my warmup, the Sun was breaking through the fog, the temp had increased to 39 and it was time to get in my run. The reality of virtual runs is they are difficult to do solo and maintain a high pace. The rather cool weather is nice and the norm for the Phaby-Gray, as is the early morning tule fog. As I finished my run and warmdown another half a dozen runners completed their runs and all told about 15-20 runners ran on course on New Years Day.
Before I left PTP I noted the beauty of the morning, the crisp clean air and the QUIET. Yes, the quiet. As I realized I didn’t miss the anxiety of race day directing, making sure everything is progressing for setup with race time hanging over my head. I didn’t miss answering questions, course marking, setting up the raffle and working the PA system all at the same time (Did the city come and open the bathrooms?! NO? S#&T!). I was not missing clean up.
That being said, what I was missing was the sounds of all of this going on, the excitement of the sound of the horn and the start, watching a myriad of runners prepare for the start, wishing I, too, would get to race. I was missing the “Happy New Years” well wishing, sharing a moment with many runners and the crew. I was missing ‘people’ as is the new norm (again that word). I missed, “Runners, take your mark, SSEEETTT, (Horn Blast). I missed the opening sprint led by many children (including a few Skanderas) most to be passed in the first half mile as the race takes shape. I missed the 1K return where the race is usually set for the TOP 10.
And of course, I missed the finish line spitting out as many names, times and anecdotes as humanly possible. I missed those from our running community that are no longer with us. And finally I missed the post race bowling tournament (Double Decker), a cold beer, college bowl games on the tele and pizza dinner. Well we will just have to wait until next year.
It was great to see many of you running with Covid safety and the Empire Runners would like to thank you for that. Continued Covid adherence by the running community will allow us to continue providing Virtual Runs on a monthly basis.
Stay healthy, run safe and hope to actually “see” you again.
At 0715 on Tuesday morning, January 1, the sun was just poking above Bennett Mountain, the wind was whipping and the air temperature icy. The wind was blowing the course-marking flour about. As I finished the turnaround marking and headed back to the start/finish I noted it was really cold but at least the runners would benefit from a strong finishing tailwind. Jump ahead to 0830 and the wind had become a mere whisper, the temperature in the upper mid 40’s, crisp and clear…you know perfect racing weather!
While the runners were slow to begin congregating at Place to Play Park, the volunteers and set up crew were quickly getting everything ready for the 10 am start. While I finished with course set up, Jerry Lyman was hard at work leading the finish line and timing crews through their paces. Meanwhile, Luis and Melanie Rosales (Mr. and Mrs. Coach) were leading the Piner XC crew, taking care of most of the other necessary responsibilities for the preparation and running of a successful race. In short, I was surrounded by a race director’s dream team. We were ready and all we needed were runners.
By 0930 the buzz of excited runners was evident with the queue to both the sign-up table and the porta potty backing up. While we waited for the start of the race, Larry Meredith began announcer’s duties, updating those that were listening, with time checks, race history, introducing the Phabys and updates from last year’s results.
All the while many runners were in the middle of race preparation and practicing race starts running around and through the mass of late arrivers.
At 1000, a moment of silence was called for our fallen Empire Runners, Alec ‘Doc’ Isabeau and Michael McGuire. After a quick reminder of the course details, racers of all ages toed the line awaiting the starting marine horn blast. And an instant later the group was off.
At around the 1K mark after completing the soccer field loop, last year’s champion, Dante Capone had developed a small lead over 2nd place Scott Kruetzfeldt. In 3rd in the early going was Tyler Harwood. For the women, last year’s champion, former Ursuline star Sarah Hallas, had a comfortable lead over 14yo Sarah Skandera with Krista Dreschler a close 3rd. Behind these early leaders another dozen or so runners were in single file in hot pursuit.
Past the 1-mile mark and around the pond loop nearly 250 runners and walkers snaked around the course as the leader pulled further ahead as he entered the Northwest Park exit and continued east on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail. At around the 14-minute mark Dante Capone emerged from behind the baseball field visibly pushing the last 200 meters in an attempt to break his course record. About 30 seconds later a smooth running Scott Kruetzfeldt was cruising along followed by a fast charging Tyler Harwood. Former Analy HS and current UC Santa Cruz runner Dante Capone finished strongly in 1st Place setting a new course record by 1 second in 15:22, a 4:57/M pace. Chico State freshman (Maria Carrillo HS), Scott Kruetzfeldt finished in a fine 15:50 and former Casa Grande star Tyler Harwood with his patented “big kick” flew in with a 16:08 time.
The first woman to hit the final tarmac was Sarah Hallas running in 12th Place overall and safely ahead of 2nd Place Krista Dreschler. Sarah, just a year from Masters status, finished 1st in a very fine 18:20 (5:55/M pace) with Krista using a strong finishing kick passing 3rd Place Sarah Skandera in the last 50 meters with a 19:27 time. Sarah finished in 19:36, being pushed to the limit by 57yo Andy Howard just edging him at the line in the same great time.
There were a number of great times and notable finishes. Men’s Master runner, Brandon Bannister, came in 6th overall in 17:05 (5:30/M), 3 high schoolers finished 4th, 5th and 7th overall: Paden Collard (Cloverdale HS), Nolan Hosbein (Casa Grande HS) and Andrew McKamey (Santa Rosa HS). 70yo Lon Wiley won his division in 21:51 (7:03/M pace). Not to be outdone, 8yo Paul Skandera won his division in a blazing 21:01 (6:48/M). Our youngest finisher was 5yo Isaac Keys while our oldest finisher was 82yo Darryl “the Legend” Beardall.
In the Women’s division top times outside of the top 3 runners included a very nice 19:47(6:23/M) for 54yo Senior Masters runner Cathy Dubay. Ruth Skandera just 9yo dominated her division with a fine 21:39 (6:59/M) and big sister Rebekah Skandera just missed breaking the 20min barrier for 5K @20:11(6:30/M). Our youth was well represented as 16 girls under 12 years old finished the race (30 total boys and girls), the youngest being 7yo. The oldest woman finisher was 78yo Kathleen MacPherson.
Following the last finisher, the awards were presented to the Top 3 in the men’s and women’s divisions. They each received a beautiful Brooks long sleeve running shirt emblazoned with Resolution Run and Empire Runner graphics provided by Heart and Sole as well as a choice of a bomber of Lagunitas beer, champagne from Korbel or Martinellis Apple Cider. Age group awards and raffle prizes were provided by Fleet Feet, Healdsburg Running Company (HRC), Lagunitas and Costco.
Well the day couldn’t have been prettier or the temperature more perfect for a January race. The atmosphere was spectacular and the vibe was “very cool”. I felt like this was the best rendition of this particular race at Place to Play and it couldn’t have happened without a lot of preparation, hardwork and skill of my staff and volunteers. The volunteers were plentiful and I know I will miss some but if you helped me in anyway be assured that I am tremendously appreciative. First and foremost, no Empire Runner event can survive without the skillset of Jerry Lyman (who years ago at a monthly meeting stated emphatically that he was retiring from volunteering…and he hasn’t stopped working since! Thanks Jerry for “retiring”). The Piner XC crew led by the Rosales simply come in and take over many race day operations and with a minimal of discussion not only provide excellent service but work to improve each year. I can’t thank you enough. The Piner course monitors (XC students) are the best. We were lucky to have Larry Meredith and his expansive knowledge of all things running announcing, wife Tori Meredith in charge of end of the finishing chute, my daughter, Michelle handing out ribbons to the kids and getting each award/raffle winner their gift. Thanks to the timing tent (Peter Kirk, K-Pop and Jerry) because without them this would just be a Fun Run/Walk. Special thanks to Bob Rogers and Scotty Ames for helping with finish line setup/takedown and more importantly “keepin’ it real”. Finally, I would like to thank those that just saw something that needed doing and stepped in and helped. That is what makes the Empire Runners such a great social activity group to join and be part of. I hope you took advantage of visiting our booth and meeting our membership guru, Gil Moreno and perhaps were enticed to give us a try.
January 1 has passed and the 2019 version of the (40th Annual) Phaby-Gray Resolution Run has packed up the proverbial tent for another year. We are looking forward to seeing you again next year and we will work to make this event even better…though I can’t promise the weather will ever be as nice as 2019!
(From the author Michael Weddington: The following are some of my reflections on the Alec ‘Doc’ Isabeau I knew. Although I hadn’t spent much time with Alec at all over the last 15 years as I’ve moved from Santa Rosa with my family to first Sacramento, then Maui, Boulder, and now Folsom, the memories I have are vivid.)
It was a blazing hot Tuesday afternoon track workout at SRJC, circa summer of 1992. As I recall, the temperature was about 95 degrees, and well over 100 on the simmering cinder surface. A group of us less-than-intelligent Thirsty Boys were slogging our way through an interminable series of life-sapping mile repeats. It was one of those forever-workouts where just getting to the next lap without keeling over in ignominy was the principal goal.
When our Sisyphean labors were finally completed, I think I collapsed onto the boiling track into a pile of quivering, melting goo, oblivious of passing runners. A moment later, I distinctly remember a voice piercing my state of delirium—against all reason—with the following, utterly irrational sentiment: “Ahhh, isn’t it GREAT to be alive?” It was Alec. Vintage Alec.
Like many Empire Runners, I first met ‘Doc’ as a patient. I had recently moved to Santa Rosa from Davis in the Spring of 1986, and I think by that Fall or the following Spring I was dealing with some nagging running injuries. I soon discovered that we shared some interesting similarities; we were nearly exactly the same age, and we both had been told earlier in our twenties by so-called sports doctors that we’d likely never run again. In his typical laugh-in-the-face of adversity manner, Alec used this nay-saying as motivation to first heal himself, then others. I was of a multitude who benefited greatly from his chiropractic expertise.
In his friendly, low-key and folksy manner, Alec tried to recruit me into the Empire Runners then, but I was pre-occupied at the time with earning a teaching credential at Sonoma State and preparing for a teaching stint overseas. However, when I returned to Santa Rosa in 1991, I eventually found myself showing up at a Tuesday Afternoon track workout (during more temperate conditions) to see what this Empire Runner thing was all about. I had a whale of a time. Alec was there, as well as Larry and my good friend Peter Kirk, who made his Empire debut the very same day. I recall a grinning, convivial Doc back-slapping me into the club, before proceeding to rudely grind me into the oval rubber during the workout. I was hooked.
During the following decade, I had the privilege and pleasure of serving as club biographer, newsletter editor, president, event director, and unofficial historian. I estimate during that period of meeting up with ‘Doc’ at perhaps 500 or so workouts, races, club events, backpacking excursions, and so forth. And I found that, curiously, the more time I spent with Alec, the more enigmatic he became.
Like any complex individual, Alec was a study in contrasts. He could horse-play with the best of them in relaxed social situations, and his proclivity for rapid-fire repartee was legendary. He loved to exchange quips at settings like the Spring Lake parking lot before the commencement of an hour of lactic acid overload. However—unlike some habitual needlers—he was humble and secure enough to regularly engage in self-deprecation and wasn’t above playing the fool with a goofy expression or outfit.
As much as he keenly enjoyed and occasionally reveled with near-abandon in the company of kindred souls, however, Alec was prone to slipping into silence and contemplation depending on the situation. To my eye, he best recharged his energies in the solitude of his beloved forests and mountains with often nary a word spoken. During our shared backpacking trips, Alec could go hours without commenting on more than the route at hand, his innermost thoughts a mystery.
Unlike many individuals (especially males) of exceptional and well-rounded intellect, Alec was disinclined to show others how smart he was. Even when discussing topics of which he was especially versed (such as conservative healthcare), Doc was generally informative without being argumentative. Even as I discovered after a time that he could actually harbor some strong opinions on various matters, I found he largely kept them to himself and consistently conducted himself—as far as I could see—with geniune respect for others.
Lest one get the idea from my developing portrait that Alec was some kind of gentle, secular saint, he I’m sure would be the first to ridicule the idea. As gentle and welcoming as Alec could be around his patients at the office or in greeting a new member to the club, in his heyday he was one exceedingly tough S.O.B. out on the trail, track or road. Through sheer force of his magnetic presence and strategic cajoling, he often bent Thursday group training runs to his will, choosing contrarian routes and a punishing pace that suited his personal desires. And with a sadistic flourish, he had a knack of ending a brief group bathroom break and rest just as laggards (such as occasionally Peter Kirk and I) finally caught up to him on the slopes of some steep Annadel trail or another, only to taste his clouding dust as he and his fitter cohorts that day mercilessly blasted off once more.
Other than during some of his hosted Monday Night runs on Yolo Court or a Club Jingle Bell Run he might have frequented with me, I rarely saw him run or hike without it seeming like there was no tomorrow. For someone with a French family name who liked to sport his euro cycling cap in his garage at home, he was as quintessentially American as they come in a kind of John Muir meets Gary Cooper way. With his rugged embrace of the outdoors, irreverent humor, a constant drive to test and improve upon his physical and mental limits, his desire to help others, and a cool mustache, one could easily envision ‘Doc’ Isabeau serving as a roving country doctor on the fringes of the 1870’s western frontier.
Away from competitive track and trail, Alec’s leadership style underwent a remarkable transformation. When encountering him at our monthly meetings, races, social gatherings, or other organized settings, I found Alec to be a true servant leader. Humble, a careful and active listener, a deliberative and inclusive decision-maker who strove to blend wide-ranging consensus with a thorough analysis of the situation before proposing, supporting and executing policy decisions. He tended to let others most of the talking before jumping in. He avoided making any particular issue or problem become personal. He led, most of all, through example.
To those who got to know him, Alec could display another aspect of his multi-faceted persona; he could be quite the outdoorsman geek in a boyish way. He loved his trucks (‘rigs’, he liked to call them) and outdoor gear, and would endlessly debate and strategize with Mojo the wisest use of winches and cables, belay and rappel devices, topo maps and ice axes. If around, I’d have to eventually tune out from techno overload. On the other hand, I can understand very well how Doc would fade out himself when, Peter, Larry, myself and other track, football, & baseball nerds might start tossing around mile PRs, state meet performances, passing percentages, batting averages, and playoff records. Organized sports trivia didn’t really light Alec’s fire.
Assessing Alec’s legacy—particularly in relation to the Empire Runners—is daunting task. For over thirty action-packed years, he dedicated a considerable portion of his mind, body, and spirit to creating community through outdoor activity. Like other long-time club stalwarts such as Tori and Larry Meredith, Bob Shor, Tanya Narath, Doug Courtemarche, Pam Horton, Lisa Isabeau, John Royston, Vall Sell, Dale Peterson, Shelly Lydon, Jerry Lyman, Dan Preston, Al Tagliaferri, Cathy Dubay, Mike McGuire, Dan Aldridge, and Peter Kirk (please forgive me for excluding here so many other worthies; my mind momentarily draws a blank), as well as more recent club movers and shakers that I unfortunately lack knowledge of, Alec was essentially responsible for making Sonoma County a healthier, more interesting, and more welcoming place with his unflagging efforts and salutory attitude.
Alec was a superb runner. He came to racing relatively late from competitive cycling, and did not really have the track background that many of his elite competition possessed. Where Alec particularly stood out was on the trail. His top times in our club’s Loop and Loop de Loop events, in addition to the Ilsanjo 10 mile and—most notably—the legendary Dipsea race in Marin County (where Alec earned at least three prized ‘Black Shirts’, I believe), compared favorably to many racers who otherwise boasted 10K track or road times 2 to 3 minutes faster than Alec’s. Doc was simply fearless on the trail, and the more arduous, the happier he was. At his best, he had both the springiness of a deer and the agility of a big cat over hills and dales. But most of all, he possessed a nearly unmatched ability to suffer on the trail in relentless pursuit of his goals. I remember the time when I think he was at his fittest. He was under Danny Aldridge’s tutelege in preparation for I think the 1994 or 95 edition of the Dipsea, and it was a Tuesday at the SRJC track. Danny was tapering Alec for the big day with a Mile-1320-880-440 interval set. I remember Alec being in the zone. His workout times as I recall were an amazing 4:48 – 3:30 – 2:16 – 59 with a short rest in between. Not bad for an avowed trail runner!
Alec was one of the most integrative people I have ever met, across many different walks of life. That is to say, his vocation, avocations, and character were remarkably in harmony with one another across the vicissitudes of time. I did not know him to be one to spend much time on idle amusements that did not directly feed one of his passions: Outdoor activity, spending quality time with Lisa and/or some of his other good friends in the club and beyond, contributing at a club event, or engaging in his professional practice. He practiced what he preached, stayed remarkably true to his passions and goals, and consistently treated others the way I believe he generally wished to be treated. In other words, as Larry and others have so astutely noted, Alec made the most of his time in this life. His lifespan as measured by earthly orbits around our sun may seem tragic in its brevity, and yet he packed the experiences and exuded the infectious joie de vivre of multiple normal lifetimes into his alloted moment.
The late mythologist Joseph Campbell opined (to paraphrase) that it isn’t really that people are searching and grasping for the meaning of life. Rather, it is the experience of being fully alive that we truly seek and crave. In this sense, I think Alec lived more truly than many of us. It seems to me that he continually pushed his mind, body and spirit to the limits not so much for worldly reasons, but rather to brush up to the very razor’s edge of transcendence itself. Although anything but a proponent of organized religion, it seemed to me from afar (Lisa and Mojo, among others, would be much better judges) that Alec shared a spiritual orientation towards the great outdoors embraced and espoused by many of the great American transcendentalists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Walt Whitman, John Muir, and Louisa May Alcott.
I read this quote by Muir, and I think of Alec:
Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses andgentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail (Our National Parks, 1901, Page 56).
In his ground-breaking studies of the archetypal hero across cultures and ages, Joseph Campbell often exemplified his insights with epic stories of legendary figures of days gone by. However, he also emphasized how every person—no matter how ‘ordinary’—has the potential to become an authentic hero in the mythological sense. The key was not only to courageously deal with the various challenges that arise within one’s evolving circumstances as a way to internally develop, but also to then bring one’s hard-earned insights to one’s home and community in order to serve others. And when one’s accomplishes this when also engaging in pursuits that nourish one’s deepest life passions, one is truly ‘following their bliss’, as Campbell said.
Alec Isabeau followed his bliss. And he will be sorely missed. I can only imagine what his beloved life partner Lisa Isabeau (nee Titus), surviving family members, and closest friends are experiencing in terms of loss. And what an enormous loss to our club and community it has been to also lose such long-time members as John ‘Mojo’ Royston, Bob Shor, Dan Preston, Ernst Bohn, George Urdzik, and now—as I literally just find out—Mike McGuire! as well as other Empire Runner’s Club luminaries who have passed on in recent months and years. As Larry Meredith so eloquently expressed in his recent memorium of Alec’s life, he (and Mojo) tragically left us far too soon, insofar as these things go. However, we can best serve their legacies—and of all those devoted club members who have come and gone before us—by giving back to our respective communities whenever we have the time and energy. Perhaps more than in living memory, our nation needs community-building of the kind that bridges difference and strengthens meaningful connections. Let us meet the challenge and continue this important task in our own, unique ways. R.I.P. Doc.
(Written by Larry Meredith. Photos from previous Empire blog articles)
Sandi McGuire has announced that a memorial for her husband, Empire Runners Hall-of-Famer Mike McGuire, will take place at Daniel’s Chapel of the Roses, 1225 Sonoma Avenue, Santa Rosa on Sunday, August 5 at 1:00 p.m. The services will be followed by a gathering at the Friedman Event Center, 4676 Mayette Avenue, Santa Rosa.
While much of Mike’s running history can be found on the Hall of Fame page of the Empire Runners website, a perusal through club history reveals a long timeline of his contributions to our running community.
Mike McGuire began teaching at Herbert Slater Middle School in Santa Rosa in the early 1970s and when the local junior highs added the sport of cross country Mike became the very first coach for the Spartans. Mike was a very popular teacher at Slater for many years before taking over as Principal at Hidden Valley Elementary School where he finished his career.
Mike joined Empire Runners Club in the winter of 1979. He was first mentioned in club results soon after for his performance in the Chico Half-Marathon. “Mike McGuire was the first Empire Runner to finish; he was 78th of 581 finishers with a 1:24:10.” His enthusiasm for racing showed up regularly in ER results later that year. At the Labor Day Races held on the roads near Piner High School, Mike ran both the 2-mile (15th) and 10-mile (8th). Two weeks later he doubled again at an event called Around The Mountain, placing 3rd in the 2.35-mile warm-up and then 12th in the 5.6-miler that circled Fitch Mountain out of Healdsburg.
Apparently coaching and teaching left Mike with too much time on his hands because his involvement with the running club was about to snowball into some serious commitments. Within a year of joining, Mike became newsletter editor. A few months later he had one of the best races of his life, a 1:16:17 half-marathon in Sacramento that placed him 21st among 1080 finishers.
On November 16, 1980 the Empire Runners Club held the first McGuire’s Breakfast Run and Mike reported on the event he both directed and competed in:
“A brisk run or two before breakfast is the idea behind this 8:30 a.m. event. The weather was nice; the runners ready; and the neighbors quite surprised to see the street filled with 40 scantily-clad people. The potluck was enjoyable and many stayed to enjoy the warm and sunny afternoon.”
Mike finished 2nd to Jeff Parr in the 1.9-mile race and then took on the 5.6-miler, finishing 4th, just one second behind then-Analy HS coach John Anderson. Masters phenom Jim Bowers won the event by nearly a minute. Two weeks later Mike doubled in the Petaluma Turkey Trot, taking 2nd in the 2-mile and 4th in the 10-mile.
Empire Runners President Tom Crawford reported the minutes of the November 21, 1980 club meeting:
“The club held a general membership meeting at the Straw Hat Pizza Parlor on Farmers Lane. The meeting environment was very conducive to carrying out very important business. Between pizza orders being called out over a P.A. system, children playing the pinball machines, etc., etc. the following high level decisions were made:
MIKE MCGUIRE was elected Club President for a two-year term.
The club voted to allow merchant advertisement in the newsletter.
The club voted to buy 4 pitchers of beer and 1 pitcher of Coke to enhance the meeting.”
Mike had gone from new member to the club’s highest position in less than 2 years. It is interesting to read Tom’s final message to club members: “As Mike and Sandi take office they will need your help and consideration to meet an even more demanding, growing and changing membership.” A subtle reminder that spouses and significant others often serve by default and that Sandi and Mike were a team. That remained obvious throughout their lives together.
Mike continued to fill up his club resume when on January 10 of 1981 he hosted an Empire Runners Marathon Clinic to prepare for Chico’s Bidwell Classic Marathon. Mike listed the participation fee as “$31,874 with Mercedes; $2.00 without.”
Mike became involved in many races over the ensuing decades and, in recent years, took over the vital yet often thankless role of securing permits and insurance for our many club events. He performed this as he did all of his commitments: with dedication and precision.
Outside of teaching and running, Mike was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, was known to have enjoyed many a variety of beer, had a keen photographic eye and was an avid cyclist. He served as a board member for the Santa Rosa Cycling Club and, while in his 60s, Mike completed the famed Paris-Brest-Paris bike ride, a 1200-kilometer (746 miles) endurathon that must be completed in less than 90 hours.
When speaking with Mike he gave you his complete attention and would offer high praise for the smallest of achievements and offer sincere gratitude for anything you may have done to help him, the running club or the community. Mike made you feel important and worthy and that is certainly why so many of his past students and fellow club members have weighed in on social media with such emotion, admiration and, of course, heavy sadness at his passing.
On the first newsletter masthead that lists Mike as president his home address is on Aaron Drive in the Hidden Valley neighborhood. The very same neighborhood that last October was incinerated in the early hours of the horrific firestorm. Less than two months after the fires, for the 38th Annual McGuire’s Breakfast Run, Mike had us gather again at Hidden Valley Elementary School, spared from the flames by just a block or two, and we somberly toured the wasteland of ash and still-standing chimneys that he once called home.
Speaking to him about the tragic event one would never suspect that he had suffered any misfortune. Mike was as upbeat as ever, claiming that life was taking him on a new adventure and that he could finally stop fretting over all the junk stored in his house that he just refused to part ways with. Obviously he and Sandi lost much, much more but Mike was determined not to lose any sleep over things that were out of his control.
Just a few months before the fires Mike had been diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery to remove a tumor on his neck. His energy and enthusiasm for life never seemed to skip a beat as he described his condition and expressed only optimism about his future. We all wanted to believe that he would get through this. That Mike and Sandi would rebuild their house and their lives and the sparkle in his eyes would captivate us for years to come. By the spring of this year cancer was taking Mike apart, piece-by-piece, but as fellow Empire Runner Tori Meredith reported just days before he passed, the sparkle was still there. It will long be remembered.
The Empire Runners Club was a Silver Level Sponsor at the inaugural fundraising dinner for Friends of Trione-Annadel State Park (FoTASP) on June 30. In attendance were (clockwise from left) Kenwood Footrace Director Val Sell, ER Secretary Kate Papadopoulos, Summer Track Series Meet Director and Student Grant Fund Coordinator Paul Berg, ER Board of Directors Member Catherine DuBay, Riverfront Relay Race Director Melanie Rosales, ER President and Riverfront Relay Race Director Luis Rosales, Jackrabbit Derby Race Director Dale Peterson and (not pictured) ER Training Coordinator Larry Meredith and ER Secretary Tanya Narath.
FoTASP was formed in September of 2017 by five members of the Santa Rosa community to provide a focal point for community fund-raising efforts to support the health and maintenance of Trione-Annadel State Park. Friends of Trione-Annadel State Park is a 501(c)3 non-profit with the specific objective to work within Sonoma County to create a revenue stream to allow the implementation of development and maintenance projects within Trione-Annadel State Park that enhance the value and accessibility of the park to all citizens.
The Empire Runners club has a long-standing commitment to providing scholarships to deserving student athletes of Sonoma County making the transition from high school to college. Made possible by dues and contributions from our members, we are giving our 4 recipients a total of $4250 in scholarship awards this year. All club members should be proud of the part they play in this most wonderful of traditions through generous donations.
These four student-athletes will be formally introduced and awarded their scholarship checks at the Kenwood Footrace on July 4th. Please join us in congratulating these outstanding young members of our running community.
Our first recipient began her running career with an 8 minute mile during PE in middle school. The accolades from her teacher lit a fire under the young runner and led to her running four years of cross country in high school. Her freshman year her ability led her to run between 2 training groups. Much of her training then was of a solo variety and the long hours spent chasing the front group led to much improvement but more importantly to develop what she calls, “grit”. This grit and continued hard work was displayed in moving to the ‘front of the pack’ and becoming one of the top runners in league (CMC) and qualifying for the Division V state championships her next 3 years. She not only represented her self and her league well, she put her school on the XC map.
This outstanding runner received many local accolades, including: Athlete of the Week (Heart and Sole) twice, All league 3 times, All Empire 3 times including 1st team in 2017, 4-time Scholar Athlete. She also had many school accolades and is the school record holder on the Spring Lake Course with a 19:31 time.
She saved her best for last by medaling (7th Place overall) at a tough NCS course this year with a huge PR of 18:38. She followed this with a 19th Place overall at the D5 State Championship on a very tough 5K course with a PR of 19:20.
Our recipient is also an outstanding student with many scholar and scholar athlete awards. She has maintained a nearly 4.0 unweighted GPA (3.98) and much like her impact on her XC team she has been a great addition in the classroom. Both her coaches and teachers agree her involvement in any activity brings up the level of those around her and her positive attitude and easy laugh is infectious.
This excellent choice for the ER Student Grant will be continuing her education and running career wearing the Purple and Gold of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. This future Prairie Fire will be a ‘diamond in the rough’ for Coach Alex Moreno and his strong D3 ladies running program. While there she will major in Theater with emphasis in stagecraft, technical theater (sets, costumes, etc.) and practical effects (stunts, flight, pyrotechnics) and Acting. Please welcome to the stage, from Tech High School, the gritty and accomplished:
Our second scholar athlete began his running career the summer before freshman year with summer training with his new high school. When he arrived he was shy and knew nobody. But after completing summer training the daunting thought of starting at a new school was gone and he began a 4-year sojourn with his XC and Track teams. This runner started in the back of the pack but with hard work and dedication he developed into a 2-year varsity performer with a multi league championship team.
This scholar athlete has found running and his team to be the most impactful experience of his life. He has found the bond of running with teammates has strengthened not only his physical skills but plays a major role in his scholastic achievement as well.
While running both XC and Track all 4 years he has found time to be actively involved in multiple school clubs, volunteer with the ER, Food Bank, Math Tutor and Spanish tutor. He has received many scholastic awards including: Outstanding Scholar (Top 8 students), Gold GPA award and 8-time scholar athlete award winner. He has maintained an unweighted 3.7 GPA.
Although beginning his running career as a JV runner (most improved) he continued to work and improve and was chosen by his coach and peers as a Captain of the XC team. His PR on the Spring Lake Course is 18:00 and he travelled with his team to the State XC Championships this past year. Because he works so hard and has the mindset for continued improvement I don’t feel he has tapped out his running potential. I also think his leadership skills and running knowledge would translate to being a great coach if he were to choose that path.
Our second recipient will be attending UC Davis in the fall. This future Aggie will be continuing his education in International Relations and running with the Aggie Running Club. Please give a big hand for this former Piner Prospector:
Our 3rd ER Grant recipient began her high school career with some accolades from middle school XC and continued that, achieving Varsity status as a freshman, running a season PR of 20:36 and 3rd team All league. Sophomore year showed continued improvement with a 19:34 PR and 2nd team All league. Junior year was more of the same with a 19:44 PR and 1st team All league. Our recipient also made All Empire sophomore and junior years. Senior year had her making second team all league with a number of sub 20min Spring Lake Course races. This scholar athlete also had success on the track with a best 2-mile time of 11:43 during track season and at the HOKA 2-mile madness junior and senior years. Her best year in track was junior year when she qualified for the Redwood Empire meet in the 800, 1600 and 3200.
With those results you might think everything was easy for our recipient, but that would be far from the truth. She hardly had a season that wasn’t negatively impacted by a myriad of ailments including bone development problems, severe anemia and pneumonia. This illness history has kept her from meeting her potential. Her illnesses would have had a weaker individual possibly quitting the sport but she came back from each setback working harder, very positive and responding with excellent results.
This scholar athlete’s excellent attitude is beyond reproach and has a positive impact on her teammates resulting in multiple Captain awards in both Track and XC. That being said, her favorite may be her Most Inspirational Award voted by her teammates last XC year (2017). Her coaches were impressed at her leadership skills including regular motivational speeches prior to races often leading to improved performances. I truly feel lucky that I was one of those coaches that experienced the “Jazzy effect”.
On the scholarly side our athlete was an NCS scholar athlete 8 times, recipient of the MHS Boosters Scholarship, NCS Foundation Scholarship and a perfect unweighted GPA of 4.0 while taking a mixed IB/AP Honors curriculum. She was also a finalist for the Redwood Empire Scholar Athlete Award. This was accomplished with a full slate of volunteer opportunities and a part time job at a local Engineering firm. It was said best by one of her teachers; “she will crawl inside your heart, make herself comfortable and while there remodel the place making room for more.”
Our scholar athlete will continue her education and running career on a partial scholarship at Division 2, Academy of the Arts University in San Francisco majoring in Fashion Design. I expect to see her continue to achieve in both her running and scholarship. This Fall she will be running in the black and red colors of the Urban Knights. Please give a warm welcome to the former MHS Viking:
JASMINE ‘JAZZY’ BECKER
Our final ER scholarship recipient almost doesn’t need an introduction. She has spent more time on the sports pages of the Press Democrat than almost any other high school athlete in the last 30 years. She also happens to be arguably the greatest combi track and field athlete ever in the Redwood Empire and maybe the state; boy or girl. Our recipient finished her high school career #1 All-Time Redwood Empire in the 100(11.87), 200(24.17), 400(54.07), 300LH(42.68) and the 400LH(62.18). These are State Meet level times and she medaled at that meet in the 200, 400 qualifying in at least one event all 4 years. Her 300LH time was run early in the season and was about 0.5 sec behind the eventual state meet winner. Her 400H time run only once this year at Stanford in early April was #2 in the nation. Per her coach, “she is willing to perform any event except the PV to get points for the team”. Anything includes both relays where she led her 400R team to #2 AT in 3:55 qualifying for the State Meet, the DT and SP where she not only produced valuable points but finished 25th and 45th AT in the RE. She also ended up #3 AT in the LJ (18’11”) which she jumped freshman year only.
If that body of work doesn’t impress you she also ran XC Soph/JR and was her school’s top runner both years, finishing 1st team All League and All RE her junior year with a PR of 19:34 on SLC. Winning races from 100M to 5K is virtually unheard of in California. If that isn’t impressive her coach noted how inspirational she is as a team leader both in XC and in Track especially tutoring the new runners in baton passing.
One might think that our scholar athlete is just physically gifted but she also had health issues after her freshman year and worked hard to recover and come back stronger and better while finding great solace with her team; training and racing. While performing at the highest level athletically our student grant recipient also performed admirably in the classroom with an unweighted GPA of 3.6 in an honors level curriculum, including Spanish and Italian all the while a member of the symphonic band in the School of Arts. She not only succeeds in the classroom she also peer tutors in Sports Medicine class.
Her high school experience has prepared her for success at the next level both in sports and academically. She has accepted a scholarship to attend UC Davis in the Fall and plans to major in Political Science with a minor in Spanish. Picking her events may be difficult and will probably include a relay or two and the 400H but don’t be surprised if she doesn’t follow her fellow alumni, Wendi Simmons and end up a national level heptathlete. Whatever happens she has a clear plan with multiple short-term goals to improve consistently throughout college and minimize the stress. Our final scholarship winner will be trading the orange and black of SRHS for the blue and white and becoming a lifelong Aggie. I am proud to present to you:
This article written by Brad Zanetti,
co-chair along with Paul Berg of the ER Student Grant Fund.
(Written by Larry Meredith. Photos courtesy of Paul Berg , Val Sell, and Tori Meredith)
Alec ‘Doc’ Isabeau, September 7, 1961 – June 23, 2018
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of long-time club member Alec Isabeau. An Empire Runners Club member since 1986, Alec “Doc” Isabeau has been a major contributor to the growth and direction of this organization for more than 30 years. In the beginning years he was an enthusiastic ambassador who encouraged every local runner he met to join forces in promoting a fun and healthy lifestyle through running, among other things. Alec soon took on more responsibility in club matters, holding the title of Director of Publicity in 1988 and was chosen to be president in September of 1989, a position he held for more than 2 years.
In the early 1990’s Alec met Analy High School cross country coach Lisa Titus through running club activities and they were soon married. Both have been dependable volunteers at hundreds of club events and activities ever since and both loved competing on the Empire Runners cross country team every fall.
It was also in the early 1990s that Alec met new club member John “Mojo” Royston and in 1993 that pair, sensing that our brutal Annadel Loop 7-Mile trail race was too tame for like-minded pain addicts, introduced the Loop-de-Loop 14-Miler to our club race schedule. In a newsletter introduction titled What’s Twice as Fun as the Annadel Loop?, the selling point was as follows:
“Tired of the hum-drum jog around the neighborhood? Bored with all those monotonous, paved, TAC-certified races? Still whining that the Annadel Loop is too short, too flat, too easy?” They went on to warn that “the course will NOT be marked or monitored! . . . though it’s likely to be strewn with clothes and muddy shoes afterwards. All participants will receive prompt psychiatric counseling; survivors are invited to the Isabeau/Garcia house afterwards for coffee, bagels, bandages, etc.” The event was “brought to you without remorse by Doc n’ Mojo Productions,” the first mention of the now infamous collaborative efforts staged by these two hilarious cohorts. The race lives on: the 26th edition of the Loop-de-Loop will take place this November 4.
In 1995 Alec served a second term as president of the Empire Runners while Mojo served as a highly successful Membership Director. Mojo would eventually follow in Alec’s footsteps serving two separate terms as president. Doc and Mojo were not through with their hijinks in club-related matters. In 2003 they came up with the Sugarloaf Summer Solstice Sunset Relay, a unique event in that it began on a Friday evening on one of the longest days of the year and included a post-race BBQ and group campout for all entrants. The course was relatively short but, as could be expected, routed over the roughest and steepest sections of Sugarloaf State Park. It proved the mantra of Doc n’ Mojo Productions: “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun!” The race eventually was moved to a Saturday morning event at Windsor’s Riverfront Park and included an elaborate post-race breakfast. Now the Riverfront Relay, the event is going on 16 years old.
A chiropractor by profession, Alec’s reputation as a remarkable healer of running-related injuries earned him the trust of hundreds of local runners over the years.
Alec battled cancer that began in his lungs more than 5 years ago. Lisa and his best friend, Mojo, were by his side as he appeared to be on his way to recovery. In a tragic example of how unfair and cruel life can sometimes be, Alec’s cancer reappeared and was more widespread this time. To make matters much worse, Mojo was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer last year and succumbed within a few months. Those of us who knew the two men and who have witnessed them struggle mightily in their final months were not surprised by their calm and courageous demeanor in facing their fate. We are left to question how two of the most health-conscious people we have ever known can be taken from us way too soon. We are left to wonder why two such pillars of our community were dealt such an unfair hand. We are left to try to emulate their love of life and take their advice to enjoy every minute you have on earth.
The 10-year Boston Marathon anniversary was marked by this trip to Central Oregon where the Empire Runners 60-64 contingent stood out in the half-marathon and 10K events in Bend on Sunday. Mild-mannered Bob “The Ginger” Rogers was anything but, turning in a 1:38 half to edge out teammate Frank “The Quiet Storm” Cuneo, aka “Boxcar” Frank, by about a minute to take the division crown. A full 10 minutes would pass before a seriously undertrained Larry “Lazy Legs” Meredith came through in 4th place, narrowly eclipsing his 1:50 pre-race prediction and just seconds ahead of “Demon” Dale Peterson, who waged a courageous and successful battle with a Buffalo Chip over the final mile.
In the 10,000-meter event Paul “Ice” Berg, coming off a victory in the IPA 10K, was running hot in the cool morning air of Bend, breaking 46 minutes to nail down the silver medal in the age group. “Breaking” Brad Zanetti, despite being held up for 30 seconds or more at an inexplicable traffic stop, came home in the bronze position.
“Rowdy” Robin Stovall was set to represent our feminine side in the 5K but a last-minute misfortune kept her from making the start.
Off the course the Thirsty Boys were just as dominant, collecting 11 brewery stamps on our way to a major award presented to us by the local visitors center. Other off-course highlights included hikes along the waterfall-rich Paulina Creek and through the spectacularly craggy Smith Rock State Park. In summary, another memory-filled adventure for this group of running buddies.
Recap by Coach Larry Meredith, mostly true, although some details had to remain in Oregon.