Interview with Robin Clark by Dale Peterson

Robin was born and raised in Willits about 90 miles north of Santa Rosa.  She grew up playing just about every sport that involved throwing, catching or shooting a ball.  By her own account she was a bit of a tomboy and loved the competitive nature of team sports. She played softball, volleyball, and basketball in middle and high school and football and baseball in elementary and junior high.
In high school, Robin started to get recruited by colleges to play both basketball and softball.  She decided to accept a scholarship offer to play basketball at the University of San Francisco.
After graduating from USF, Robin stayed another two years to  earn a her masters degree in Sports Administration/Management.  She got a part time job at a K-8 school in the city while working on her masters degree.  She loved working with children and coaching and started to consider teaching as a career.   Upon obtaining her teaching credential, she started teaching and coaching at the high school level but after a few years she decided she would rather coach the younger kids.  She ended up at Comstock Middle School on the west side of Santa Rosa teaching and coaching cross country, track, volleyball and basketball.
Robin lives in Healdsburg with her husband ( a retired PE/Biology teacher/track and field coach) and her Golden Retriever Amigo.
Robin became a runner after her college basketball playing days were done says that she loves the way running makes her feel and that she loves how she can get lost in her thoughts when running.
Robin is also  very competitive with her running and enjoys seeing her personal gains achievements as a runner.
Robin has qualified for the Boston Marathon twice and has a personal best of 3:29.
Robin says that nothing in her previous athletic experience that compares to running across the Boston Marathon finish line.
Robin would like to be able to run Boston in the future with some of the students she once taught and introduced to the sport of running.
You were quite an athlete growing up, competing in softball, basketball and volleyball.  When did you start running for the sake of running as opposed to as part of your training for other sports?
I started running for the sake of running my first year teaching.  My competitive athletic career was complete when I graduated from college and I knew I had to stay active and running became my sport of choice.  As a graduate student in the city , I started running daily in Golden Gate Park and really fell in love with the sport .  Some of my friends were runners and they encouraged me to sign up for the Bay to Breakers and I was hooked. By signing up for races, it has motivated me to really learn more about the sport and training for races.
You taught and coached at the high school level for four years before you realized that you wanted to work with the younger middle school aged kids.  What is it that draws you to the younger kids?

I taught high school for four years before switching to the middle school.  The younger kids are so excited to learn and have so much energy every day.  I absolutely love their willingness to try new things, get sweaty, and their silliness.  At the middle school level, I get to teach the kids everything for the first time.  I get to introduce them to new games, new sports and teach them how important living a healthy and active lifestyle will be throughout their entire lives.

Your background is primarily “ball sports” – how did you make the transition to coaching Cross-Country and Track?
 I started coaching cross country and track when I started teaching middle school.  At this point in my life, I had been running about 6 years and it was a huge part of my life.  The Comstock cross-country program had four students on the team the previous year, and I felt we could do much better than that.  I decided to take over the program and get more kids involved in this amazing sport.  My husband was a PE teacher, track coach and ran in college at Chico State so he helped me out quite a bit with the workouts and taught me pretty much everything I know about teaching/coaching  young kids.  At the middle school level, my goal is to make running fun  for the kids so they will continue to run in high school and beyond.
Working with 180 kids a day must be tremendously challenging – tell us a bit about that.
Teaching 180 kids every day in my PE classes can be challenging at times, but it is also very rewarding to give the gift of health to my students.  I tell them there is nothing more important than their health and without it they have nothing.  The quality of life is so much more rewarding when you are healthy and can enjoy it.  I make it a priority to do everything I ask my students and athletes to do so they see why working out is important. I feel it is my job to be a positive role model and to not only tell them how to be healthy, but to show them how to be healthy.
Having fifty or sixty kids in a middle-school running program is quite an accomplishment – what do you feel is the secret to getting them and keeping them interested?
I believe the reason we are able to keep fifty-plus kids in the Comstock running program is because we focus on making running fun.  Running to me is not about winning at the middle school level. I never talk to the kids about winning races or championships.  We focus on getting better, setting short and long term goals, making new friends and simply enjoying what running gives to us individually.  I talk a lot about the opportunities and benefits running could offer the kids.
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Comstock Middle School kids jumping for joy!
Tell our readers a bit more about your running club modeled after the SRLA running program down in Los Angeles – how does it work exactly?  How do kids earn free running shoes etc?

The Comstock running club was modeled after the very successful SRLA program in Los Angeles.  I heard about SRLA from an administrator who taught in an inner city LA school. He was a volunteer coach for his school and trained a group of students to run/complete the LA Marathon.  I was amazed that 12/13 year old kids could accomplish such a challenging run.  This program in LA has major sponsors, lots of corporate support and volunteer coaches who make it a reality.  I wanted to try to create something very similar to the SRLA program, but my biggest challenge became  the funding to get kids registered in local races and providing my needy kids with high quality running shoes.  We still struggle to fund the expensive race entry fees, but every year we find a way to make it happen.

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Comstock Middle School runners off another adventure.
The kids earn free running shoes from me by working hard, having good attendance and showing me they are dedicated to the sport.  Each year, I use my track coaching stipend to purchase 30 pairs of shoes. The kids earn a free pair by showing me they are serious about their running.
Do you keep tabs on your former student-athletes?  How many went on to successful high school and college running careers?

 

I keep in contact with all of my former student-athletes running in college.  I invite them back to run the half marathon in San Francisco during Christmas break and travel to watch many of them run In college.  The kids give me so much joy and bring so much happiness to my life.  Being able to cheer them on and support them is very important to me.  Last year, my husband and I traveled to Virginia, Wisconsin, Oregon, Fresno, Los Angeles and Stanford to watch my former athletes compete.

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Robin with Empire standout Luis Luna
Outside of your work at Comstock Middle School, how is your running going these days?  Your 3:29 marathon PR is very impressive!  What are your short term and long term goals?

My running is going pretty well.  I am training to run the Rock n Roll Arizona Marathon in January and two half marathons this year.

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Robin Clark – educator, coach and runner.
Long term /bucket list goals for running would be to run Boston again with some of my former athletes, run the New York City Marathon and the Nashville Rock n Roll Marathon.  Running is such a gift and has given me the opportunity to travel, meet new friends and watch my students enroll and graduate from college.
Who has been the greatest influence on you as an educator and coach?
My husband has been the biggest influence on me as an educator and a coach. He has taught me the true meaning of education.  We have been fortunate to be able to help my athletes in a variety of ways, and all I have ever asked in return is for them to pay it forward when they are able to do the same.
Any question you wished I had asked or anything you want to be sure to share with our readers?
Thank you for allowing me to talk about my amazing students and the joy they have given and added to my life!

2016 Empire Runner Scholarships

2016 ER SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS

Pictured above L to R between ER Board members Peter Kirk and Chris Mason are the 2016 recipients Joshua Palmgren, Joshua Pine, Devan Becker, Travis Claeys, Jacob Hayes, Aimee Holland and Adria Barich.

This year the Empire Runners were proud to present scholarships to seven qualified student athletes. We are lucky to have a rapidly growing Running club (now well over

1,000 strong) and thanks to this growth and the generosity of selected members the club was able to give out $7250 in total scholarships this year. The seven student-athletes had a combined unweighted GPA of 3.67. In addition, most of these recipients took an all honors AP curriculum. But these were not just great individual athletes but also great teammates and team leaders. They spent their spare time performing community service and were members of many school clubs, participating in various activities. The Empire Runners are very proud of these seven extremely gifted all around student-athletes.

Joshua Pine of Montgomery was a four year runner whose freshman year was particularly difficult. Being brand new to running, he worked hard each day but had problems with his fitness. Undeterred, he came back his sophomore year and was greatly improved. It was the summer before his junior year though that he became not only a runner but also very interested in the science of running, including nutrition and hydration, becoming a team leader and taking new runners under his tutelage. He also had his best year in cross-country with a PR of 22 minutes on the Spring Lake course (Spring Lake course). During his senior year his hard work and leadership skills continued to drive him as a team captain for the JV boys and a further improvement of his PR (personal record) on the Spring Lake course, running 20:14 on a particularly hot day at the NBL finals. He also had a 45 sec PR at the HokaOneOne 2 Mile at SRJC.

His teachers and coaches are thankful to get to work with this hardworking, dedicated and responsible young man. We are looking forward to seeing where life takes him as he continues his running and education at SRJC. He plans to volunteer coach for Montgomery high school. With continued work his best running is still ahead of him and he will make a great coach.

Joshua Palmgren of Rincon Valley Christian began his running sojourn his junior year on the track. As with any new sport especially running there were some growing pains initially but he concluded his junior track season on a high note, trained hard all summer and readied himself for cross-country. He worked hard and became a team leader as well as immersing himself in the science and numbers of running. His coaches and teachers were impressed with his leadership and maturity. As good a runner as he has become it might be dwarfed by his scholastic achievements with nearly a 4.0 unweighted GPA and the NCS scholar-athlete award for cross-country. He completed his senior year with a huge PR at league finals in cross-country with an 18:48 on the SLC and another PR on the NCS Meet of Champions 3 mile course in 19:02. He competed in three events at league finals in track (800,1600,3200) and had a huge PR at the Redwood Empire 1A meet with a fine 10:47 in the 3200. In his spare time he managed a number of community service activities and he might fit you with a pair of shoes at his part time job with the Fleet Feet team.

this former Rincon Valley Christian Eagle will matriculate to SRJC and become a member of David Wellman’s Bearcub Track team.

Travis Claeys of Sonoma Valley has travelled all over the west coast and British Columbia on four missions with his church, has volunteered at the Sonoma Ecology Center, spent the summer of 2014 in France as a foreign exchange student and is an Eagle Scout. He is a very good student and an outstanding cross-country and track athlete. He was a baseball player first and came to running his junior year. At the finish of his senior season he became the #2 runner all time for his school on his home course and the SLC. He finished the cross-country season #2 at league finals in a PR 15:48 (SLC). He followed that up with an outstanding 11th place at NCS in 15:56 earning a trip to the State cross-country championships in Fresno. There he finalized a fantastic season with a 16:19 time on a tough 5K course finishing in 66th place out of over two-hundred runners. His track season was more of the same with a fine 9:52 at league finals and a 9:58 at the Redwood Empire meet. He was awarded 1st Team All league and All Empire cross-country his junior and senior years.

His Coach and teachers laud his maturity and leadership on the field and in the classroom and his ability to be a team player. These skills will allow him to go far as he studies environmental science and runs cross-country and track at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. Because of his late start in running we feel his best times are still ahead of him.

Amie Holland of Santa Rosa HS came to running from another sport; soccer. After a series of concussions derailed her promising soccer career, this athlete resiliently gave up her sport for another – running, starting on her track team and then becoming a member of the cross-country team. It was obvious to her coaches and teachers and is obvious to anyone who has had the fortune of watching her run or working with her in community service that this ball of energy is indeed very gifted but more importantly she has the intangible of grit, accepting all challenges, testing herself and the ability to give all of herself. Her list of honors and awards both running and academic fills over half a page yet they are dwarfed by her other extracurricular and community activities. She has not only maintained nearly a 3.6 unweighted GPA in an all honors curriculum she also excels in the Art Quest program.

This natural track athlete excelled in the 800 but also ran in both sprint relays. She was the two-time defending NBL 800 meter champion winning this year in 2:17.5, 2nd at the Redwood Empire meet and 8th in the finals of the Meet of Champions with a PR of 2:16.4. She was also this years Viking Track Classic 800 winner. In cross-country her grit and determination was obvious as she sometimes willed herself around the Spring Lake course. She finished 5th overall at the NBL finals with an outstanding PR of 18:51 to finish 1st team All League and honorable mention All Empire cross-country and All Empire 1st Team in track.

This scholar-athlete’s coaches and teachers praise her leadership, her passion and her ability to bring her classmates and teammates with her on her journey of excellence. That is high praise indeed for a young lady whose first year of life was spent in an impoverished orphanage in China. Her goals seem so simple: run to the best of her ability and have fun while doing it and to become a Registered Nurse and make a difference in the world. She will be running and studying at Winona St University in Minnesota.

Jacob Hayes of Piner came to running his freshman year just because his friends did. At that point he had not run before nor had he been on a team. His freshman year he was a middle of the road JV runner until league finals where he finished with a 90 second PR, 17:31 on the Spring Lake course. That race forever changed not only how he thought of himself as a runner but also his position in life. He continued to improve and mature as both a runner, as a teammate and leader; becoming the MVP and team captain in cross-country after junior year. A serious injury curtailed his early season preparation and results this year but after working hard on his physical therapy he came back and helped lead his team to a league championship, a 3rd place finish at NCS and a trip to the state championships in Fresno. Although he had his best times during his junior year (16:25 on the Spring Lake course) his ability to come back from serious injury and support his team is more telling of his true worth as a teammate and leader. His track PRs are 2:08 (800), 4:40 (1600) and 10:22 (3200).

But statistics alone do not tell the true story of this scholar-athlete. He graduated third in his class with a 3.97 unweighted GPA in an all honors course load. He was a CSF member, president of the Math club and Christian club, created lesson plans and taught basic science class for special-needs students and is one of six students working on a level 3 STEM certificate. His STEM research involves analyzing geographic earthquake and city emergency response data which will be presented to the city of Santa Rosa.

A leader, a teammate, a teacher and by his cross-country coaches assessment a great friend, this outstanding student will be taking a gap year with Torchbearers International in Costa Rica and Albania doing mission work prior to matriculating to either Biola, Corban or George Fox Universities where he plans to major in kinesiology and physical therapy.

He will be greatly missed by his coaches, teachers and friends in the Piner Family and he will be welcomed and appreciated at the University of his choice.

Devan Becker of Montgomery began his running career as a self proclaimed mid pack runner in middle school. In a decision he now says is one of his biggest regrets he first came out for cross-country his junior year and NOT his freshman year. But from the start he committed himself to two years to cross-country and in its essence that is his story: dedication, determination and commitment, to give nothing less than his best on a daily basis. If you ask him, he will say he is not physically gifted but that is because his essence of hard work dominates his results. His inner confidence is bolstered by this gift and he shares that gift with teammates as an effective leader and as his coach’s voice on those long workouts.

His two years had an incredible impact as demonstrated by the results – 4 min PR 16:48 on the Spring Lake course, 10:27 2nd in his heat at the Hoka 2-mile Madness, 2015 NBL All league) and by team effect (Coaches Award, Leadership Award, Steve Prefontaine Award. With an unweighted GPA of 3.92 and a top Varsity member of NBL Champion, Montgomery HS Golf team this athlete was his school’s Scholar Athlete of the Year for the Redwood Empire. His teachers laud this young man’s commitment, focus and maturity as well as the respect he garners from his peers. Those skills as well as his incredible personality will serve him well as he continues his education in the math field with a goal of teaching high school math (preferably at Montgomery) and Head cross-country coach. We would not bet against that. This former Montgomery Viking will continue his running and education at SRJC with Coach Wellman.

Adria Barich of Casa Grande has achieved great things both scholastically and athletically since her first day of her freshman year even though, as she says, she joined cross-country on a whim, more as a social event often slowing down during workouts to run with friends. As a freshman this reciStephen-8773pient made it on to the varsity cross-country team that begin a run of four trips to Fresno and the state cross-country championships while in track she was already one of the top 800 runners in the NBL. In her sophomore year there was continued improvement dropping a minute in her Spring Lake course time and a four second improvement in the 800. In fact, in a rarity in female high school distance running, this athlete had significant improvements all four years to become one of the best combination cross-country and 1600 runners in the history of her school and the Empire. Her final cross-country season left her with PRs of: 17:57 on the Spring Lake course (#19 AT), 17:52 at NCS (12th AT), 18:19 at Woodard Park (#17AT-5K) and on the Track 2:21.5 in the 800 and 4:57.9 in the 1600 (#11 AT). She is three times All Empire in cross-country and track, three time Heart & Sole Athlete of the Week and at least half a dozen team awards.

That is impressive indeed but running accomplishments are not the whole story. This young lady has excelled in the classroom with a 3.97 GPA unweighted. Her teachers and coaches remark on this scholar athlete’s ability to set goals, formulate a plan and achieve. They laud her ability to perform the hard work necessary both individually and in a group effort along with her leadership skills. Her maturity is evident as she finds time to give back to the running community that she feels an integral part of; coaching elementary school track, volunteering for local races including Empire Runner events and numerous fundraisers for her school’s all weather track. Our final scholarship recipient’s achievements have landed her a scholarship at the University of Nevada Reno.

Brad’s Corner – by Brad Zanetti

“SHOE DOG, a memoir”, by, Phil Knight (creator of NIKE), Simon and Schuster, New York, 2016, pp. 383.

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For those of you who are regular readers of this blog and my particular posts you may have read my review(s) of the trilogy of books about NIKE. I have reviewed each book individually and mentioned them in the Christmas wish list posted in the December 2015 blog. To this list I will now add the aforementioned “Shoe Dog” a memoir written by THE Phil Knight, the creator of NIKE (along with Bill Bowerman).   The other 3 books are:

1- “Out of Nowhere” , by Geoff Hollister

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2- “Swoosh”, by JB Strasser and Laurie Becklund

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3- “Bowerman and The Men of Oregon”, by Kenny Moore.

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The first two books were written by former employees, employees who had some kind of falling out with Mr. Knight. The third book, written by Kenny Moore, was written with a bit of the voice of Bill Bowerman but also included insight from many of the U of O athletes and Nike employees for a rounded storyline. I felt “Out of Nowhere” written by Geoff Hollister, one of the original inner circle employees, gave a bit more of the inside story without pulling all of the punches. “Swoosh” was written by an inner circle employee(Strasser) who ended up being fired (or did he quit?) at great odds with Phil Knight (in fact in SHOE DOG, Phil mentions he wishes that he and Strasser could have reconciled but forgiveness wasn’t in eithers makeup. Since “Swoosh” was written by a disgruntled employee, it is the most expose’ like in its approach.   “Shoe Dog” is definitely written in ‘vanilla’ like manner.

I am not sure which book about NIKE is closest to the truth but I feel ‘Shoe Dog’ is written in a veiled manner to give Phil Knight and NIKE the best appearance.  Although some of the story seemed purposely incomplete, Knight’s writing style is quite good and makes for a smooth and easy read. Of course, as is my style, I would advise reading all four books now but if you can only stomach one book about NIKE I would read ‘Out of Nowhere” by Geoff Hollister. If you want to read all of the ‘dirt’, then read only, ‘Swoosh’. If you want to read a sanitized version of the author and owner of NIKE, then read ‘Shoe Dog’.

In grading this book I will split up the grades for readability and storyline:

Readability:       4/5

Storyline:           3/5

Overall:               3.5/5

Lastly, I feel any and all of the books are a worthwhile read. Take a chance(s?) and learn the true story of NIKE, Inc.

Interview with Sarah Hallas, by Dale Peterson

Can you tell me a little about yourself Sarah?  Where you came from, went to school, how you got into running and what you are doing now in regard to family and career.
I grew up in Guerneville, one of my most favorite places in the world!  My twin sister & I grew up playing soccer, volleyball, basketball, & tennis.  I also took ballet lessons!  We were both super active, so when I started begging my parents to send me to Ursuline in 4th grade, they started considering it since their sports programs were so good.  Ursuline’s soccer team seemed to be 1st in the league every year and back then, soccer & running is what I hoped to pursue.  Once my parents caved & my twin sister & I were accepted to Ursuline, we both went out for soccer.  After a few days of tryouts, we were both cut for being “too small.”   I went on to run cross country that Fall and am so glad I did.  By my Junior year at Ursuline, I started receiving several scholarship offers from all over the country.  I decided to go with Chico & stay close to home.  Since college, I have been working for Wells Fargo Advisors in Petaluma as a licensed associate.
The Fam Bam: I met Tom (my fiancé ) and his bulldog Bella in 2009.  In August of 2013 Tom proposed and a month after our engagement, we found out we were pregnant!  Our healthy Tommy Jr. was born three weeks early in June of 2014. By this time we had acquired two more dogs, my Doberman (& training partner), “Moose” & Bella’s brother “Jack,” who had become a rescue. Ten months after Tommy Jr was born, we rescued Moose’s sister “Nora,” & that’s how you end up with a baby and four dogs.
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When I am not dragging the family around the country with me for a race, you can find us in Tahoe, or fishing, or spending time with the grandparents.  I am also an ambassador for Mudroom Backpacks and run for Thirty Birds & Gatorade.
Tell us  a little more about your HS career at Ursuline – what were your favorite events?  What were some memorable races?
I mostly ran the 800 and 1600 at Ursuline but I would occasionally run the 3200 and the 4×400 when my coach could talk me into it.  My most memorable races were probably in cross-country where I qualified for state each year.  Looking back, I know running in the Redwood Empire, was truly a gift.  I knew the girls that I was competing with were both going to be a Big Deal, and that was pretty awesome.   Julia Stamps and Sara Bei  are both such amazing athletes and people.  It goes without saying that being able to run in the same races with them, made me a better runner.  It really was a gift.
 I understand that you went to Chico State on a scholarship but that you ran into more than your share of bad luck, injury and illness there.  What kept you going?
The constant injuries at Chico were pretty discouraging.   Any runner knows that being injured is the most annoying part of our sport.  What kept me going is my love of the sport & of course my coach.  Gary Towne is an amazing coach, I absolutely love him!  He definitely got me through the hard times with cross training workouts and the right trainers in the Chico State training facility.  
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Shortly after graduation you ran your first marathon?  This distance is way beyond the longest track races.  What made you want to do it?
I wanted to do a marathon since high school.  I just wanted to be able to say I did it.  Now here I am 26 marathons later and it doesn’t really seem like as big of a deal now ha ha!  My high school coach Heather Rosales was a marathon runner and a talented one!  I was definitely inspired by her.  Gary in Chico is also a very talented marathon runner & had actually run CIM the Sunday before my recruiting trip there.   As he showed me around campus, I kept hearing people congratulate him.  He’s so modest so it took me the whole trip to find out that he had just run a blazing marathon in Sac that weekend.  My coaches have all been pretty inspiring people to have in my life, I’ve been very lucky. 
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I know that you have broken 3 hours – what is your PR, where did you set it and how did that race go?
2:52.11 is my PR.  I ran that in Santa Barbara after they canceled the NYC marathon due to the hurricane.  I felt like I was ready to run NYC that year and when our plane landed in New York and we caught a cab to Manhattan, I found out the mayor decided to cancel the marathon.  My mom, Tom my fiancé and I  had a great time in New York anyway then flew home.  The very next weekend I ran the Santa Barbara Marathon.  I definitely didn’t expect a PR that weekend but of course I’ve come to expect the unexpected with marathons.
You are beyond super-active – how do you balance your training, time with your animals, family time and job responsibilities?  How much rest do you get every night?
I’ve always trained early so getting up at 5am to run 8-10 miles isn’t a big deal.  I take both of our Dobermans with me for part of my run so they get their daily exercise too.  Getting up early was a bit harder when Tommy Jr was younger and I was up nursing 3-5 times a night, but now that he’s two years old, getting up at 5am is much easier again.  I start work at 7:30 so getting my workout in before my workday starts makes life so much easier.  I cross-train or lift weights on my lunch break so once I get home from work, I have the rest of my day open with my family.  I still take Jr running in the stroller with me as well, but usually only on a double day or to give dad a short break.  Tom is an amazing help too; I couldn’t leave for three hours on a Sunday or any other day to run and workout without his constant help.  I wish I could say I get more than six to seven hours of sleep a night but honestly, that’s about it.  Some weekends I can sneak in a nap when Jr is down but that’s about the only time I can catch up.
I know that in addition to running you lift, swim and bike.  Do you stick to a pretty rigid schedule or do you adjust based on your racing goals, the way you feel etc?
I am always adjusting based on my future races and goals.  Some mornings I’ll roll out of bed and won’t be feeling as recovered as needed.  On those days, I’ll do an easy run and do a workout the following day instead.  I mix in both swimming and cycling a couple times a week for extra recovery as well.  The cycling these days is usually with Jr on the back of my mountain bike though, nothing too intense.
I just happened to be at the Montgomery HS track a month or so back and you showed up at the end of a 20 mile run as I understand it and jumped right in to some 200M repeats with Kate Papadopolous. How can you do that without getting injured?
I always try to do a few up-tempo repeats at the end of a long run just to wake up the legs after so many miles at the same pace.  My college coach always encouraged this and I’ve just stuck to it.  It was totally random seeing Kate there, so I just asked if it were okay to join her for a few.  I do a lot of my long runs with Empire Runner, Vojta Ripa but that particular day, I was doing a 20-miler solo so Kate letting me join her was awesome and much appreciated.
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What are your short term goals as a runner?  Got any big races coming up?  What are your long-term goals, say in the next five to ten years?

I’d like to run sub 2:50 in a marathon eventually.  I’ve done so many marathons and only 3-4 that were completely flat.  I feel like I could run sub 2:50 on a flat course on the right day.

 My next race is actually a non-running race (swim).  “Escape from the Rock,” on August 26th.  It’s one of those bucket-list items that I’ve always planned to do and finally signed up for. I’m not sure what my next running event is yet since I just ran a marathon a few weeks ago.  I’m giving myself some extra recovery since its been awhile since I’ve taken any decent amount of time off.
Who do you look up to as a runner?  Who do you look up to in life?

 

As a runner, that would be Sara Hall  and Julia Stamps-Mallon.  Both are very inspiring and local legends!  Verity Breen is another athlete that I am very inspired by.  She is an amazing athlete and creator/owner of Thirty Birds, the racing clothes I wear.  She will be 50 this year and still runs sub 6:30 pace in some of her races!  She is simply amazing!!

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Who I look up to in life would definitely be my parents and fiancé Tom.  All have provided so much to my life and would do anything for me if needed.  I am so blessed to be surrounded by them everyday. 

‘Tis the Season by Paul Berg

No, don’t worry I’m not going to start celebrating Christmas at Labor Day, or bring out the carols before Thanksgiving, but the date on the calendar that I get most worked up for is upon us: Cross Country season. The transition of summer to fall is on display as we eat some hot dust at our home opener and Garin Park in September, maybe some mud to slosh through by the time we hit China camp at Halloween, to a crisp morning in Golden Gate Park in November. Friendly rivalries emerge anew each year, age-group teams reconfigure as some of us get older, while others manage to stay ageless.

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Your club has once again made a big commitment to subsidizing entry fees and uniforms, making it possible for nearly 100 runners to compete wearing the feared Empire Runner singlet. Carpools at an ungodly weekend hour serve to strengthen our resolve to give it our all and cheer on our teammates. Foggy memories of glory days fade as we toe the starting line, no matter how fast or fit we are today, the adrenaline kicks in as the gun goes off. Even if you’re not running for the Empire Runners team this year, I encourage you to search out a local race, maybe a high school or JC meet at Spring Lake, and come out and cheer the past and future heroes of our sport.

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2016 Olympic Track and Field Trials by Larry Meredith

This summer’s Olympic Trials for Track & Field marked the third quadrennial pilgrimage to Eugene for a small group of Empire Runners who consider it a vacation to attend a track meet that goes on for eleven days. The following is a synopsis of our experience from my point of view.

[Special thank you to club President Paul Berg for the photos]

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Paul and Hilda Berg welcoming the masses to Tracktown USA

Day -1

John and Jill Harmon arrived in America’s Tracktown ahead of the pack.  That was to be expected.  Not only are they the only retirees in our group, those who know John understand that his level of preparation as a spectator may favorably compare to the physical preparation required of the many competitors he came to see.  I have bestowed upon him the title of track and field aficionado, which the Oxford dictionary will tell you is “a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime.”  They settled in near the University of Oregon track facility, Hayward Field, and appropriately got their Ducks in a row long before the opening event.  By the time the rest of us had arrived John and Jill had already discovered the best ice cream shop in the vicinity.

Day 0

I am among those who experience a gag reflex when the subject of race walking is broached.  As a friend once enlightened me, this competition generates about the same level of excitement as a contest held to determine who can whisper the loudest.  Fortunately for me, I have eschewed most forms of social media so hard line race walk enthusiasts may find it frustrating to lambaste me publicly.  Let me just finish this subject off with a final, delicate jab:  I found it appropriate that these events were held on Day 0.

Club President Paul Berg and his wife, Hilda, pulled into town on Day 0 but it is doubtful that they caught any of the race walk highlights.  Their daughter Celeste was a top runner for Montgomery High School years ago and Paul was a welcome contributor of his time and energy to the Viking cross country program.  This link to MHS XC was a common theme for many of us at the Trials.

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McKenna and mom Val Sell enjoying the trials.

I believe Val and McKenna Sell, accompanied by Joey Johnson, arrived on Day 0 but it may have been in the wee hours of Day 1.  Though her car was not equipped for off-highway excursions, Val threw caution to the wind by first heading north on Highway 101 and then taking the seldom-used Covelo Cutoff to find her way back to the Great Central Valley of California.  It’s safe to say that Joey and McKenna will have a story to tell their grandkids one day.  I’m not implying that Joey and McKenna are an item or that they will have grandkids together or even separately or . . . oh, never mind.  What I can say is that they are teammates in track and cross country for Sonoma Academy HS and both are quite good distance runners.  Val recently gave up the MHS XC head coaching job, a position she held since the fall of 2003.

Brad and Bev Zanetti were planning to arrive on Day 0 but Brad pulled off a perfect Zanetti while mountain biking on Canyon Trail just days earlier.  The hairpin curve halfway down the trail couldn’t contain Brad and he awoke sometime later with a split helmet and snapped collar bone.  Complications that were too complicated for me to comprehend kept Brad from traveling until Day 2.  The Zanetti’s had three youngsters compete in cross country for MHS a while back and Brad has been a fixture as a volunteer coach, mentor and along with Bev, a strong team supporter ever since.  Brad, Bev, Val, McKenna, Joey, Hilda and Paul were all sharing a house on the south edge of Eugene, just over 2 miles from the stadium.

Day 1

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Dale Peterson and Larry Meredith enjoy a beer near the Ninkasi tent as Tori Meredith and Robin Stovall look on.

Robin Stovall, Dale Peterson, my wife Tori Meredith and I made the long drive up from Santa Rosa.  Longtime Empire Runners Robin and Dale have been attending the Trials since they were first held in Sacramento 16 years ago.  Tori and I have made the last three trips to Eugene and, in our younger years, coached cross country and track at MHS.  This year we four shared a house just a couple of blocks from Val and Co. so get-togethers and carpooling was quite simple.  After checking in with the landlady we straddled our bicycles and headed for the track.  Although we took a short detour through an old graveyard just west of the stadium, we made it in time to see some preliminary 400-meter races and before long it was time for the first track final of the Trials, the men’s 10,000 meters.

To put it mildly, it was an odd race.  Local favorite Galen Rupp, a former Duck and silver medalist at the 2012 London Games, had already made the U.S. team by winning the marathon trials back in February.  It was his debut marathon and he made it look effortless.  Rupp was the odds-on favorite in this event and, after a few laps at a relatively pedestrian pace, he put on a burst of speed to suddenly pull 25 meters ahead of the pack.  I’ve never seen a favorite do this so early in a Trials distance race.  I wondered if he was simply using this event as a training run for his marathon in Rio.  No one followed Rupp, which was odd because there were many in the field who needed to run a fast pace to make the Olympic qualifying standard.  After running five laps alone, Rupp seemed to get bored with it all and allowed the pack to come back to him.  Then he spent a few laps in apparent negotiations with his fellow competitors, trying to find out if anyone wanted to turn this into a real race.  At the halfway mark Rupp struck again, accelerating away like a greyhound leaving behind a pack of beagles.  This time he found accomplices in Shadrack Chipchirchir, a U.S. Army runner who looked to be about half the height of the lanky Oregonian, and 41-year-old former Olympic and World Champion Bernard Lagat.  A trio of chase runners led by another Army runner, Ben Korir, along with Hassan Mead and veteran Ben True eventually tried to join them near the front but another surge by Rupp gave the lead trio a seemingly comfortable cushion three-quarters of the way through the race.  As much as Rupp was a local favorite, Lagat was a stadium-wide favorite and this crowd was getting excited about seeing a masters runner take his place on yet another Olympic team.  And that’s when Lagat simply stopped and walked off the track.  I can only assume that, at his advanced age, he lost count of his laps.  Been there.  It was Rupp and Chipchirchir for the remaining laps.  When Chipchirchir decided to go for the win just before the bell rang out, Rupp once again displayed his dominance by blazing a 60.7-second final circuit, more than six seconds faster than his would-be rival.  Impressive.

Most in our group then headed over to Turtles Bar & Grill where I had the best chicken sandwich of my life.  And I’ve had quite a few.  We enjoyed a few ales and discussed what we had just seen on the track.

Day 2

This was the day our group had been waiting for since May, which is when we found out that our favorite runner, Kim Conley, would compete in the 10,000 meters here.  Kim is a former Montgomery High School runner.  She was a freshman there when Tori and I coached our final season for the Vikings in 2000 and she was a senior when Val took over as head coach in 2003.  After surviving three different head coaches in high school Kim moved on to UC Davis where she would, once again, race her way through three different coaches in five years.  Apparently none of us was capable of ruining her because she just kept getting better.  Even the cruel track gods could not stop this young woman when they twice cheated her out of competing on the national stage in college.  As a junior in the regional qualifying meet a fellow runner stepped on her heel and ripped her shoe off early in the 5000.  A year later she was poised to make nationals again when food poisoning took her down on the eve of her qualifying race.  Though never on the radar nationally, Kim made a bold choice to pursue a career in running.  Lucky for her that her current coach, Drew Wartenburg, was her final college coach and his support and guidance helped make possible all of the remarkable achievements that followed.

Kim burst onto the national scene at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Eugene.  I remember it like it was yesterday and, when I go over the details in my mind, my skin still radiates with goose bumps.  Kim’s comeback in the 5000 that day is far and away the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed on the track.  How she led the race for most of the first two miles because, first and foremost, she had to get the Olympic standard of 15:20.  How hope seemed to fade as that goal slipped away by about one second per lap.  How the pack swallowed her up with a mile to go.  How Julia Lucas decided to put her stamp on this event by speeding into the lead with 1300 meters still to run.  How the crowd of runners dispersed into a line immediately after as the pace went into high gear.  How Kim faded to eighth place with just 600 meters to go.  How she steadily regained fifth place by the start of the final lap.  How, with but 200 meters left to run she was still 10 meters behind the fourth-place runner, Dartmouth youngster Abby D’Agostino and a full 35 meters behind the final qualifying spot, held by a badly fading Julia Lucas.  How the final straightaway seemed like a dream, Kim passing D’Agostino just meters from the line and then out-leaning a nearly walking Lucas to take third by 0.04 seconds.  How we waited to see if the impossible had just happened and then jumped and cried when the big screen posted Kim’s time.  15:19.79.  Goose bumps.

She followed up the London Olympics by making it to the finals of the 5000 meters at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia.  She was a runner-up in our national cross country championships and competed for the U.S. at the world championships in that sport.  In 2014 Kim thrilled her fans in her adopted hometown of Sacramento by winning in dramatic fashion the 10,000 meters at the U.S. National Championship meet.  A few months later she was crowned national champion in the half marathon in Houston.  Shortly after that an injury, the first serious setback of her career, nearly wiped out her entire 2015 season.  But she wasn’t finished yet.

Kim and Drew married in 2015 as Kim was on the long road to recovery in their training haven of Flagstaff, Arizona.   Shortly after that Kim’s father, Dave, became gravely ill and did not last until Christmas.  Several of us Conley followers traveled to Sacramento in late December to watch Kim begin her march to the Olympic Trials with a sub-32-minute 10,000 win under the lights at the Sacramento State track.  She ran the 5000 a few times during the spring, threating her 15:09 PR on each occasion, but never getting that breakthrough performance she sought.  In Kim’s final tune-up, a 5000 at Portland’s twilight series against strong competition, she followed along with the pack until 900 meters remained.  Her surge into the lead that night went unchallenged and gave me the impression that she was ready for something special.

Unfortunately for all of the women’s 10,000 runners in the field at the Trials, the race was being held at 11:00 in the morning and the weather was muggy, too hot for comfort.  No one wanted to lead this race so they left it up to Molly Huddle, the national record holder for 5000 meters and heavy race favorite, to pull everyone around, lap after lap.  Tori had our group cheering in unison each time Kim came down the homestretch above which we were seated about 60 meters from the finish line. Kim was running on the outside of a bunched-up pack as they approached the end of the ninth lap of this 25-lap race.  Looking oh so comfortable.  That’s when the track gods, who had been so kind to her for four years now, turned evil again.

Right in front of us we saw Kim stumble slightly and turn her head back in anger at one of her pursuers.  Then she stopped and we could see that she was trying desperately to get the heel of her shoe back on her foot.  She couldn’t do it right away so she ended up sitting down on the track to finish the job.  By the time she jumped up she had lost a full nine seconds to the leaders.  In the stands our group went silent with shock.  To have four years’ worth of work be swept away with a simple misstep that was no fault of your own seemed incredibly unfair.

Now there was still a long way to run and not much time to make a decision.  Kim still had a slot in the first round of the 5000 meters which would be held five days later.  Does she drop out right now and save herself for Thursday?  She decided to try to get back in the race.

Over the next lap the pack remained at a comfortable pace and Kim, in her adrenaline-spiked condition, cut the gap in half.  She knew she had to regain contact with the field before the pace heated up.  And then the pace began to simmer.  Kim gamely came on, catching the stragglers one-by-one, moving from 13th place all the way up to sixth by the end of the 19th lap.  There was a moment that we started to believe that she could work her magic again, in an even more spectacular fashion than four years ago.  But the front-runners were really moving by then and although Kim had come within three seconds of the lead, her 10th-lap spurt had left her drained.  She soon found herself 12 seconds behind and losing places so, in a move that was hardly noticed by anyone but her ardent followers, she sped down the straightaway of her 20th lap, veering gradually to the outside lanes and kept running all the way to the locker rooms under the stadium.  A classic exit, if there ever was one.

Our group was stunned and I fought back tears, wondering what must be going through Kim’s mind.  About 20 minutes later that question was answered for us.  Kim sent a text to Val, asking her to tell everyone that she was OK and looking forward to taking on the 5000.  Thanking us for our support.  How could anyone not admire that kid?

For me, the rest of the day was just a blur of qualifying rounds in races I can’t remember.  Later we gathered at the Sell/Zanetti/Berg house for a BBQ and the mood was somewhat subdued.  Well, at least until we finished off our first beer of the evening.

Day 3

The weather turned cooler a little too late for the 10,000-meter runners.  On this day U.S. track royalty extended their reign in several events.  Crowd favorite Allyson Felix was a 400-meter winner once again as was LaShawn Merritt on the men’s side.  An aging Justin Gatlin was still the fastest human in our nation, covering 100 meters in a mere 9.8 seconds.  The women’s 100 saw a coup when former Duck sprinter English Gardner led an entire list of new names for this event.  Ashton Eaton finished the day off by defending his decathlon crown.  Oh, and somebody won the long jump.

Day 4

Independence Day and we were not in Kenwood!  But Eugene has its own version in the Butte-to-Butte run so several of us took it on.  John Harmon claimed gold among 60-year-olds in the 5K!  Tori and I were entered in the 10K but hampered by injury so we decided to walk it.  That lasted about a half-mile.  Bored, we began jogging up the big hill on the course and didn’t stop until we reached 4.5 miles.  After another half-mile of walking we jogged it in to find our comrades waiting.

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Butte to Butte 10K finishers Dale Peterson, Paul Berg and Val Sell gather with head “cheerleader” Brad Zanetti after the race.

As for the Trials on the track, both genders faced finals in the 800 meters.  Alysia Montano, as expected, led the women through about 650 meters before most of the pack re-grouped around her and started leaving her behind.  Brenda Martinez was starting her patented kick to the finish, halfway around the final turn, when things suddenly got ugly.  Martinez was thrown off balance on the outside, fell right in front of a surging Montano and, just like that, two of America’s top 800 runners of all time were staring at the back of a sprinting pack as it disappeared in the distance.  Others in the pack were affected as well, all but newcomer Kate Grace, who must have felt that she suddenly emerged from a maze with a clear path to the cheese.  Kim’s husband and coach Drew had apparently made peace with the track gods because he is also the coach of Grace and he watched in pure joy as she held off all pursuers to the finish.

While Martinez arose and finished as hard as she could, knowing that she still had a 1500-meter event to try for, Montano was probably experiencing the loss of her last Olympic dream.  She jogged the turn and fell to her knees in anguish, crying to the heavens.   This she repeated every 25 meters down the homestretch as some in the crowd politely clapped in sympathy.  I will leave it to each individual spectator to judge the appropriateness of this display.  Montano was later pilloried on social media and in blogs for sharing her suffering so demonstrably.  I can’t say that I was comfortable watching it.

The men’s 800 was far less dramatic but every bit as exciting.  Newcomers ruled the day as Clayton Murphy ran down the heavy favorite Boris Berian in the final meters to take the gold.  Berian will likely be a medal contender in Rio so he has a chance at redemption.

Day 5

The beginning of two days off for all the competitors, unless you count the hammer throwers.  Which I do, by the way.  I may be willing to rile up the race walkers with some snide remarks but who am I to ridicule the nation’s most agile strongmen?

The Sells, the Bergs, the Zanettis – all had relatives living in the Portland area so off they went on a road trip to the north.  The rest of us gathered a few miles south in Cottage Grove where John and Jill showed off their brand new collapsible tandem bicycle in a yellow color as bright as any shirt John has ever worn.  We repeated a 25-mile ride we took four years earlier.  The route is a nearly flat, completely traffic-free paved path that passes by farmland, a great reservoir and quiet forest with a few covered bridges to be seen along the way.  As we pulled into the parking lot we ran into Kim’s mom, Melanie, and sister, Emma, out for a stroll.  Melanie, a Brit with a wonderful English accent, was displaying her stiff upper lip about Kim’s fate in the 10,000.  No worries, there’s still the 5000!

Day 6

Robin, Tori, Dale and I drove about 90 minutes west into the coastal range of mountains for some hiking.  We found a glorious trail in the deep woods, following a lively stream that was punctuated with spectacular waterfalls.  We had the place all to ourselves for a while. John and Jill remained in Eugene and late that evening John participated in a series of public mile races on the famous track, after the hammer throwers had done their damage, of course.

Day 7

Thursday was finally here after what seemed like weeks since Kim’s initial race.  The only final on the track this day was the women’s 3000-meter steeplechase but our group was all locked in on round one of the 5000 meters.  Kim needed to get a top-6 spot in her heat to move on to Sunday’s final.  To our relief, she made it seem like child’s play.

Kim’s strategy this day was to avoid the inner chaos of the pack.  She quickly positioned herself among the top four on the outside edge and remained there for more than 11 of the 12-and-a-half laps.  With about 700 to go Kim stepped on the gas and quickly took over the lead.  Near the end of the backstretch there was a brief hitch in her stride and once again we saw her look back to berate her nearest pursuer.  She was clipped again, though this time without consequence, and in the Eugene newspaper the next day she revealed the warning she gave at that point in the race.  “BACK OFF!!”

From there she never gave up the lead, even down the homestretch when 2015 national champ Nicole Tully made a late charge.  Kim left the track looking like she had just finished an easy run in the park.  Her text to me later:  “I live to fight another day!”

Our group collectively exhaled for what seemed the first time in a week and then we watched Emma Coburn handle the steeple chase final with as much ease as Kim had just experienced in her pre-lim.

Day 8

Defending steeplechase champ Evan Jager repeated Coburn’s performance in dominating his field of competitors.  I was reminded of the great Henry Marsh of the late 70’s/early 80’s, who always hung back in last place until late in the race when he seemed to thank each competitor for their participation as he went by them on the final circuit.

The women selected their Olympic trio for the 100-meter hurdles and, once again, a fresh group was doing the celebrating, led by Brianna Rollins.  Unfortunately for Keni Harrison and for track fans around the world, she picked the wrong time to have a poor showing.  The world’s leading hurdler coming in, she faded to sixth.  Two weeks later Harrison set a new world record for the event in London.

Day 9

Distance running fans in the crowd were given their most memorable moment on Day 9 as they watched the men’s 5000 final unfold.  Like Kim, Bernard Lagat had made an early exit from the 10,000 a week earlier and re-focused on this race.  Even though he was the oldest man in the field by far, Lagat was content to settle into a very sluggish pace for the first 1000 meters.  That showed his confidence that his legendary kick was still a force to be reckoned with.  But then two unheralded runners decided to try to make a name for themselves.  Brian Shrader bolted from the pack and was quickly joined by William Kincaid.  These two turned in a sub-60-second 400 meters to gap the field by a surprising margin.  Everyone else in the pack responded as if the two troublemakers were invisible.  The pair ran another hard 400 and suddenly held a five-second gap that looked quite impressive from where I sat.  When Paul Chelimo decided to join them at 3000 meters, the field took notice and gave chase.  Two laps later the feisty duo that started the whole thing were back in 9th and 13th.  But just when order appeared to be restored, the battle got bloody.  On the penultimate lap the pace dropped to 62 and then the stage was set for Lagat, who appeared to be holding on for dear life back in sixth place.  Four of the men just in front of him would then blister a 53-second-lap but down the final straight Lagat was still there and so was his kick.  He ran a 52 to take the gold as the stadium erupted.   The old man had turned back time.

The hubbub surrounding the men’s 200-meter final was the fact that there were two high schoolers in the race and both had qualifying marks that made them serious threats to make the Olympic team.  In the end, though, it was veteran Justin Gatlin again, never seeing another runner from his starting spot in lane eight to the finish.  The HS boys were very close to realizing an unthinkable dream, taking fourth and fifth, perhaps signaling a changing of the guard for one of the best ever, Tyson Gay, who took sixth.

A relative youngster did set the crowd on fire during the day’s last event, the men’s 110-meter hurdles.  U. of Oregon’s own Devon Allen defended his top seed with a flawless performance over the barriers.

Day 10

Here we were again, nervous for Kim on a do-or-die day for achieving Olympic glory.  But first we watched another group of fresh faces punch their ticket to Rio in the women’s 400 hurdles.

Fun fact.  Kim was not the only Montgomery High grad running in this 5000 final.  Her HS teammate, Sara (Bei) Hall, a veteran of two previous Olympic Trials, had worked her way into another final at the age of 33.  Hall had set her sights on the marathon this time around, and was running in the top four of the qualifying race in Los Angeles a few months ago before being forced to drop out at mile 16.  She, too, had a second chance at redemption, although she faced long odds in a field of women with much faster PRs.

The race featured all three of the qualifiers from the 10,000 a week earlier.  Molly Huddle was again considered the class of the field and had fellow Rio teammates Emily Infeld and Marielle Hall poised to earn a spot in a second event.   D’Agostino was back, more mature by four years and Katie Mackey was on a lot of lists as a favorite to make the team.  There were no published previews that listed Kim Conley as one of the top three finishers.  But unlike 2012, when publications did not even list her name among the candidates, this time Kim was prominently lauded as someone who would be in the mix.

In the mix she was, as the crowd of runners let Infeld and Huddle set the pace.  Conley remained right behind, running next to Houlihan on the outside edge of lane one, lap after lap.  There was bad luck to be had back in the pack again as last year’s national champ Tully tumbled onto the infield just after the mile mark.  She rose and tried to rejoin the race but made no headway on the pack.  Halfway through the race Tully’s Olympic dreams officially came to an end and she walked slowly down the straightaway, tears streaking her cheeks.

Drama would not return until the bell sounded for the final lap.  There were six runners grouped within one second and Kim was number four.  The bell was like a call to dinner for Huddle, Infeld and Houlihan.  By the time she rounded the first turn Huddle was gone and Houlihan had just passed Infeld for second.  The gap back to Kim was nearly four meters and the situation appeared desperate.  In reality, she had Infeld right where she wanted her.  D’Agostino and Marielle Hall were dropping now so it was just a matter of reeling in Infeld.  Kim made quick work of it.  Halfway down the backstretch she moved into Olympic position and, from my perspective far away, I could clearly see that it was a done deal.  Huddle and Houlihan were not coming back, each clocking around 63 seconds for the final lap.  But Kim was moving pretty well, too, putting three seconds on Infeld to finish alone in that coveted spot.  The track gods had made up for their previous mischief.  Kim Conley is a two-time Olympian.

 

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High Fives all around at the end of the race. – Brad Zanetti and John Harmon.

 

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Kimmy receives a congratulatory hug from Tori Meredith during her victory lap of Hayward Field.

I saw the men’s 400 final.  I saw the women’s 1500 final where the form sheet played out just as written.  I saw the dramatic dive that put Jennifer Prandini on the 200 team and kept Allyson Felix off it.  I saw a terrific men’s 1500 where the favorites did not fail to please the crowd.  But I really only remember Kim’s race and that sweet feeling of redemption.

 

 

Interview with ER Treasurer Tanya Narath, by Dale Peterson

Tanya was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She wasn’t involved in any organized sports growing up but took lessons in ballet, tap, acrobatics and played tennis. For a short period in her teens she took ice skating lessons and dreamed of being the next Dorothy Hamill – seriously! But never being able to spin more than 3/4 of a turn in the air made that dream seem a little out of reach. In high school she played the xylophone in the marching band, and clarinet in high school band and the youth symphony. Tanya was never sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, but enjoyed math so parents and high school counsellors alike suggested engineering.  She graduated from the University of New
Mexico with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering during one of the tech downturns. Unable to find a job,  she decided to go on and get her MBA at the University of Texas at Austin which had a new concentration in information systems.  She was thrilled to secure her first “real” job working for Hewlett-Packard in Rohnert Park in 1988 as a systems analyst. She worked her way up through the management ranks at HP and Agilent.

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Outside of work and for all her life Tanya has had a love for being out in the wilderness, and a trip to the Brooks range in Alaska with  husband and fellow empire runner Tim Stewart in 1994 caused her to start thinking about a career change. It took her a long time but in 2005 she left Agilent to work for a nonprofit called the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy. She became fascinated with how the design  of our cities and transportation systems could be changed to improve our quality of life, health and that of the environment. She decided to go back to school to learn more and enrolled in a distance learning masters program in urban and regional planning through the University of Florida in late 2014. She felt ready to take on a new challenge and left the Institute in May of 2015. Tanya recently started working for the county of Sonoma as the IT manager for the Department of Health Services.  She feels that it’s a fun job because she is learning a lot about the many important services the health department provides for county residents.  Tanya says that she does not know where her path is leading, but as long as she is learning and feeling challenged she will be happy!

 When did you join the Empire Runners?

I think it was some time in 1990, around the time when Tim and I got married.

 You have been a member of the board and ER Treasurer now for how many years?  Being Treasurer is labor intensive – What has kept you so involved for so long?

I love this club and its members. From my very first Sunday run, which by the way I was super intimidated to attend because I knew how slow I was and how fast everyone else was, I’ve felt supported and encouraged to be the best runner I can be. It’s never mattered that my per mile pace is slower than others. So I stay involved because I am so grateful for the club, for all it’s given to me and the running community at large. I also see how a small number of volunteers do so much to organize the races we all enjoy, and I’m thankful to everyone who shows up early to set up the course, check in runners, and basically do all the work so that the rest of us can enjoy the race.

I’ve really enjoyed being a member of the ER cross-country team over the last few years. The races are tough, but it’s all worth it to be
part of the ER team and cheer each other on.

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On top of being so active in the Empire Runners – you have been one  of the people behind the Southeast Greenway initiative.  Tell us a little about how you got involved and the work you have done to assist with that effort over the past several years.

I originally got involved through my role at the Leadership Institute.
Several of our students were involved in the early stages of the
project. The community is really fortunate that many years ago a group of passionate residents came together to stop the bridge over Spring Lake, and then more recently the greenway volunteers who have held the vision of a greenway to Spring Lake when so many others might have settled for a road on the Highway-12 right of way. As a volunteer, I’ve helped with tabling at events, attending public meetings, and most recently set up the tech equipment for the greenway’s annual community event last February.

The Southeast Greenway will be a great resource especially for
runners who live on that side of town.  Living on the other side of
town, where do you do the bulk of your running?

I do a lot of my running on the smaller creek trails that are near my
neighborhood. The main Santa Rosa creek trail is about a mile and a
half from my house, so I have a range of options depending on how far I want to run. When I was training for my last marathon I did quite a few miles up and down the various creek trails. I also run in “the park” (Annadel) at least once a week, usually on Sundays, and try to get to the Thursday night run as well.

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You have run a lot of marathons over the years.  How many are you
up to?  What are some of your favorites?  Got any others planned?

I’ve run 16 marathons, starting with my first one at the Valley of the
Flowers. My two favorites were running the Victoria Marathon with Pam Horton (and George Urdzik as our amazing support crew and post race dinner host) and the California International Marathon where I qualified for Boston. I would like to run more marathons, but finding the time to train is a little challenging right now.  I recently
learned about a website dedicated to “run commuting” and am intrigued by the idea of running to/from work to get a few more miles in during the week.

Do you do any cross-training?  If so, what?

I’ve been participating in club member Shelli Main’s boot camp once a week and am really enjoying it. I also dabble in yoga, but struggle to maintain a consistent practice. I need more hours in the day! I used to commute by bike when I worked downtown, and would like to start riding to work again.

You just seem like a healthy person with a lot of energy.  Do you
follow any particular diet or nutritional program?  What are some of your go-to meals?

I try to eat healthfully but I do have a sweet tooth, and I love
chocolate! Tim and I get a box of locally grown veggies every week
from a CSA (community supported agriculture) called Singing Frogs
Farm. It’s a great way to try new vegetables that I wouldn’t otherwise buy. I like making green smoothies to use up the abundance of greens in our box. Basically I aim for moderation and figure that if I don’t eat too much of any one thing (other than fruits and veggies, of course :)) then I’m doing ok.

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What are your short-term goals as a runner?  What are your
long-term goals, say in the next five to ten years?

I’d like to qualify to run Boston again, and try some longer trail
races. I’ve heard there’s a fantastic trail run in Portland that I’d
love to try one day. I’m also for some bizarre reason drawn to run the Tioga pass race that goes from Lee Vining at Mono Lake up 12.8 miles to Tioga pass. I’ve had trouble with altitude sickness so the idea of running from 7,000 to 10,000 feet is daunting but every time Tim and I do a trip to Mono Lake I think about doing the race some day.

Who do you look up to as a runner?  Who do you look up to in life?

As a runner I look up to Shirley Fee who runs crazy long trail races (30+ miles) and has a contagious drive to see what new adventure she can tackle.

In life I look up to my uncle Edgar who recently turned 80 and still runs and bikes with great enthusiasm for life.  I look up to anyone who pushes their own edge and does something that at first may not seem possible.

Back to the Future, by Paul Berg

Imagine the freeway heading east past Farmers Lane, parallel to Hoen Avenue, across that puddle formerly known as Spring Lake, carving a big chunk off Annadel State Park as it zooms past Oakmont on the way to Sonoma. That image sounds like a terrible idea today, but that was the vision of CalTrans engineers in the early 60’s. With that plan for the freeway, the state of California purchased a large swath of empty lots extending from the end of what became Highway 12 at Farmers Lane, past Montgomery high school all the way up past Summerfield Road and beyond. In 1960 Santa Rosa had a population of 31,000 residents, mostly clustered north of College Avenue and downtown. Flash forward to today, Santa Rosa has swelled 5 fold in population, eating up the surrounding ranchland in all directions. An aerial map curiously reveals a 52 acre chunk of empty land neatly nestled in the middle of town.

JUne16Berg3“So what does this have to do with me?” you might ask, and “why is this bit of trivia on the Empire Runners blog?”.

About five years ago a group called the Southeast Greenway Project approached us with the germ of an idea about acquiring this land and turning it into a huge green space including running and cycling trails. Empire Runners was one of the early groups to see the potential of this for the community, and we’ve been donating seed money to do studies, hire consultants and assess the feasibility of the idea. A large open space surrounded by urban development rarely comes available in any city, a blank slate for to imagine what we want to make best use of this resource.

June16Berg4At our May meeting, we were given an update by 2 members of the committee on the progress to date and a few of the hurdles in the near future. As you can imagine, there are many layers of bureaucracy to cut through, from state ownership to overlapping city agencies all wanting to be involved. The dedicated volunteers of the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway have been working tirelessly to get input from the public on what we would like to include in this project. I urge you to sign up for updates on their website http://www.southeastgreenway.org/ and envision what a game-changer this could be for our area, and feel proud that your club is helping to move this along.

June16Berg5

Brad’s Corner, by Brad Zanetti

“The Boys in the Boat”, by, Daniel James Brown, Penguin Books, New York, New York, 2013, pp 370.

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In the past I have reviewed mostly books about runners and running, for runners and running, written by a runner or had running in the title(how slick?!). So on a great recommendation from a friend(and the Sonoma Gals Book Club) I began reading a book about rowing, specifically the nine-man crew that went to the 1936 Berlin Olympics with a quest for the Gold Medal. Now I straight up don’t know a lot about rowing and although I watch it during the Olympics I don’t follow the sport regularly. Still, I felt this book was a great choice for two main reasons:  1) It’s an Olympic year and June is Olympic month and 2) I am fascinated with the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin and the politics of the era.

Upon starting the book I kind of read over the quote that begins each chapter. As it turns out each quote or thought is by a man named George Yeoman Pocock. In chapter three his character is formulated and it turns out that Mr. Pocock is a former rower from England who is a (the) master builder of the 8 man cedar shell (boat). In fact the Pocock shell is still considered the premiere shell. Well I went back and restarted reading the quotes prior to each paragraph and found that they added much to the storyline.

In lieu of giving a detailed telling of the story (’cause why would you read it then?) let me just say this is one of the finest sport stories I have ever read. Character development was excellent and complete. You really feel like you know what makes each character tick. Each chapter covers a number of storylines and character developments and repeats them in a way that makes you part of a story, part of the character’s life – a part of history.

The historical time frame covered extends from the late 1800’s through 1943 with excellent historical perspectives throughout the storieline. The epilogue chapter covers the lives of the characters through the 21st century. The reader will get an interesting feel for the times of the early 1900’s, the development of Seattle, the depression era, the politics surrounding the Olympics (and Avery Brundage) and the politics of Hitler, a rebuilding Germany post WWI and the way Hitler snuck up on the world prior to trying to rule it.

This will happen by following the life story of Joe Rantz, one of the nine rowers on the 1936 Olympic Rowing team from the University of Washington. You will learn about his rather sad early life and how it developed his resolve. You meet his teammates, how they relate to one another as the team is formed from over a hundred young men over four years under the watchful eye and tutelage of Coach Al Ulbrickson and Master shell builder George Y. (Yoda?) Pocock.

The Boys in the Boat is incredibly well written in all ways. I was especially impressed with the historical perspective and the development of an understanding of this new sport to me, Crew. The individual and team aspect of crew parallels in many ways running and cross-country although even more linked due to the synchronous nature of rowing. The story telling of the actual races was very good and I found myself immersed in the crew racing experience much as if I was in a race myself. I don’t often give an unequivocal thumbs up but with this book I am prepared to do so. If the story alone was not enough I was definitely enamored with the G. Y. Pocock quotes that begin each chapter.

Two examples of George Pocock’s insight circa the 1930’s are prescient of the type of things I shared with my high school runners and have shared with other Empire Runners:

“ Men as fit as you, when your everyday strength is gone, can draw on a mysterious reservoir of power far greater. Then it is that you can reach for the stars. That is the way champions are made.”

and

“Where is the spiritual value of rowing?…The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole.”

And in an homage to the “Runner’s High”:

“When you get the rhythm in an eight, it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when the rhythm comes… that “swing” as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek out with delight when that swing came in an eight;  it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.”

My recommendation is to read this book as soon as you can. It is a wonderful read full of depth and detail, characters and history, sport and its impact. Read it NOW, before it becomes a movie.

Rating:   Excellent                     5/5 *****

An Unlikely Partnership, by Melody Karpinski

When I first sat down with my head track coaches from Montgomery and Rincon Valley Christian for our pre-season meeting and they broached the idea of combining practice, I was largely skeptical.

May16_Melody_04How would this work? Was it even legal? Could I keep track of both sets of athletes? Would I be able to remember all of their names? Would I still be able to help them achieve their goals? How was I possibly going to catch all of their splits when they ran together at invitationals?

Just the little things.

We don’t compete in the same league or in the same division. One school is public, the other private. One school is a little over 200 students, the other is just under 2,000.

The most distinguishing feature? One school has a track and the other doesn’t.

May16_Melody_05In February, we began combined practices. The kids didn’t know each other and I don’t think they were certain how they felt about the whole thing. I was acclimating to my new job as the assistant coach at Montgomery. On top of it, every day and every meet seemed wetter than the last.

At Big Cat, the wind blew a soccer goal post over and hit an athlete in the head. Some of my athletes ran their first 3200m race while the sky dumped unlimited bucketfuls of the rain everyone had been praying for.

“But it doesn’t rain in California,” complained one of my athletes during the Windsor Relays as both teams were huddling under our makeshift camp of three or four EZ-UPs vigorously strapped to the bleachers as if the apocalypse was coming. The wind howled, pole vault got canceled, but the heats went on.

May16_Melody_01When the meet got called off mid-way through the 100m after the timing tent blew over, everyone descended onto camp overjoyed. They began hi-fiving each other and delightedly gorging on the cookies I had made them promise not to eat until their races were over.

After a couple more meets of suffering together in the rain, the atmosphere at practice seemed to shift and the kids began to look forward to working out together. When practice was separate for a couple of days in March due to different meet schedules, they’d come up to me and ask why their friends from the other team weren’t there. Each invitational, the kids would warm up with each other before their events.

May16_Melody_07They’ve also teamed up to mess around, taking turns hijacking my phone and my Garmin (which is currently set to military time and commands in Italian after the latest venture). It’s also still unclear who had the best proposal for getting out of a workout (my favorites include three months of “professional chauffeuring” and sheer bribery in amounts ranging from $20 to $100) and who had the most honest food diary entry (entries included a “lame sandwich” and “burritos that weren’t as good as last night”). They have debates about who the greatest underrated distance runner of all time is (the conclusion was Rocky).

May16_Melody_06During meets, cheering emanates from our camp for athletes from both teams and each athlete’s success is celebrated with equal admiration regardless of uniform color. Intermixed prom couples are starting to pop-up. Friendly rivalries have formed. The kids are already looking forward to long trail runs in Annadel together during the summer.

The Viking Track Classic last week marked the last meet the kids would have competed against each other during the regular season. There’s a few things left unsettled though, and Friday they’ll all take the track for what we’ve affectionately dubbed the Red vs. Blue meet. Rumor has it the whole coaching staff from both schools will participate.

Post-season around the corner, the distance squads from both teams are asking me for a pool party together. All I can think of is that someone will jump off the diving board and pull a muscle the week of championships, but I’m tempted to let them have their fun anyway. They began the season as strangers and they will leave as family.

My split sheet, and my heart, are full.

Located in beautiful Sonoma County, California.