Category Archives: 2019 Posts

REDEMPTION RACE : Ultrarunning adventure with Bert Braden

My foray into the Indiana Trails 100 mile endurance race came as the result of my first DNF at the Kodiak 100 mile endurance race in August of 2019. I had made several strategic mistakes leading into that event seven weeks earlier which resulted in my dropping out at the 25 mile point. I erred in not allowing enough time to adapt to altitude at Kodiak (7-10,000 ft. elevation), in deciding to use the race provided nutrition in lieu of my preferred Osmo + Gu system, and in attempting to go caffeine-less in the days leading up to the race. Massive headache, nausea, and gastronomic rejection of nutrition and hydration commenced about six hours into the race and I DNF’d after arriving at the 25 mile aid station with only ten minutes before the cut-off time.

Kodiak 100 was to be my “A” race for the season and I had selected it because of the six UTMB points that it offered for me to re-qualify for the 2020 UTMB lottery. A finish would give me 11 points out of the required 10 points and lock-in an entry place in either 2020 or 2021. Failure to garner the points basically means back to the end-of-the-line and start over again in the next lottery.

Upon returning home in the midst of that dejected, bewildered state which descends from an incomplete objective, I tried to remember some of the things I’d picked up in my recent 7 year ultra-running career: “If you don’t fail you’re not setting hard enough challenges”, “ Anything can happen on any given race day”, etc.

After a couple days of mucking around, I resolved to at least explore whether there was any possibility of salvaging my UTMB effort. This late in the season the number of race opportunities has dwindled and choices are few. So imagine my amazement when I discovered on Ultra-Signup the Indiana Trail 100: a 100 mile race worth 5 UTMB points in Albion, Indiana, just twenty mile from my mother-in-law’s home on Lake Wawasee. With only 8,000 ft. of vertical gain, five 20-mile loops at near sea level, a 30-hour cutoff, and seven weeks for me to retrain to peak, it looked very achievable. It was as if the stars had aligned: How could I turn down a chance at redemption!


In a Kodiak 100 debrief later the next day with my Ultra-Coach Bob Shebest we discussed a game plan for putting the DNF behind me. When Bob told me he knew exactly how I felt about dropping out in an ultra, there was absolutely no doubting the sincerity of his condolences; here was a professional level athlete and a senior recreational runner sharing the same experience. We discussed the next easy race, goals for next season, and potential remaining UTMB qualifiers including this 100 mile race in Indiana in early October. As the end of our telephone meeting approached Bob suggested that I really consider the IT100, to which I responded “Bob, I went ahead and signed up earlier this morning so I wouldn’t lose the spot”. Somehow I think he already knew…

About this same time I ran across an article in Trail Runner magazine by David Roche titled “So You Had A Crappy Race…Now What?” David’s article pretty much validated everything that I had been processing over the previous week. Particularly the premise that “Bad races are big opportunities if you let them be” and “You don’t run in spite of the trials. The trials are the whole point”.

So You Had A Crappy Race … Now What?

The 25 miles that I had put in at Kodiak had barely made a dent in my conditioning, and so ramping back up to the 100 mile race distance seemed easy at first. I managed a couple of near 70 mile training weeks and seemed to be on my way to peak performance four weeks out from race day when disaster struck. While out on a five hour peak-week training run at Lake Sonoma, I took a bad step which jammed my right knee, overloading the joint. I finished the remaining three hours of the workout, but the next day it was apparent that I had developed a full-blown case of patellar tendonitis, the dreaded “runner’s knee”. I nursed myself thorough the taper portion of that final training block and even arranged for a cortisone injection one week prior to race day in an attempt to placate my angry knee. The shot in the knee helped enough to turn my attitude back towards “Just finish the race in 30 hours and get the points, no matter what”. I received further instruction from this athlete’s favorite PT practitioner, Dave Townsend at Santa Rosa Physical Therapy, on how best to tape my knee for additional support in the event that it started giving me trouble during the race. (I probably looked a bit odd walking around before the race with one knee shaved in prep for a potential tape job).

The 6:00 am morning start saw temperatures of 34 degrees F, cold and breezy, but the rains had stopped and the course was drying out nicely. Huddled in the warm, cozy Main Tent at the Start/Finish I exchanged good luck wishes with my newly found friend from Sebastopol, Janice Bondar and her sister Linda Bondar who had traveled to Indiana for their first 100k attempt. Upon overhearing a remark that there were a bunch of people last year who started late because they were still in the tent, I decided to pry myself away from the flames of doom early in order to await the starting line outside in real conditions. Minutes later we were ushered off on our first 20 mile loop by race director Mike Pfefferkorn into two hours of cold, dark, breezy Midwest morning with the promise of an entire night of the same later that day.

One of the big lessons I’ve learned working with my coach Bob Shebest is the importance of managing my condition during ultra events. Personal race management starts with things that I can control such as equipment & clothing, fuel & hydration, pre-race sleep, etc. For race clothing I went with skin tight bottoms as recommended previously by Skip Brand, HRC; tech shirt with arm-warmers (for later removal, uh right); Patagonia long sleeve ventilated zip top, Patagonia nano puff vest, and a pair of recently commissioned Hoka Speedgoat 3 trail shoes. Two soft bottles filled with Osmo and a handful of Gu in my Salomon Skin12 vest and I was traveling lighter than I had in any previous ultras. This trail austerity was facilitated by the abundance of aid stations and volunteers on the fantastically well-appointed IT100 and the fact that forecast temperatures would be lower than I’m accustomed to in California. This meant that I could carry less fluids, hit up aid stations for additional calories every few miles, and adjust my kit and clothing every twenty miles at the Main Tent aid station.


At most ultra distance races, I’ve found a pre-race warmup unnecessary, and so I started this one out at a brisk race walking pace, which for me is around 14 min/mile. This fast-walk pace gives me time to warm up thoroughly, establish a sustainable baseline heart rate, and get a feel for the course. An added benefit was that I didn’t have to worry about tripping on obstacles or stressing any body parts early on. The bulk of the field gradually passed me by, but even at this fast-walk pace I could theoretically finish the 100 mile distance within the allotted 30 hour cutoff time. So I resolved to keep walking until daybreak, which in this westernmost portion of the Eastern Time zone would come at 8:00 in the morning, about two hours into the race near an aid station at the seven mile mark. Traveling with both a head-light and waist-light gives me better depth perception and allows my peripheral vision to follow my foot placements in the more diffused light of the waist-light. A dimming head-light called for an unplanned early stop to pull off the trail and replace the batteries, which saw me lose several more positions, but there was still a string of headlights behind me and it was very early in the race. Seven miles in and not a drop of sweat on my body, which is my goal for cold weather travel. In cold conditions like this, I figure that as long as I’m not sweating, and still making forward progress, I can keep up the pace indefinitely and with no risk of hypothermia. The no-sweat indicator has worked well for me in training and it played a key role in my success in this race.

Refilling of hydration supplies has been problematic for me over many races. I have gotten much better at getting-in and getting-out of aid stations, but I still suffer a significant time loss in fumbling with bottles, powder packets, refilling, etc. In this race, a single bottle refill and a couple bites of food at Mile 7 probably cost me five minutes. But I also used this opportunity to adjust my pack and rig from night-running to day-running mode. At about 180th place, this was the farthest back in the pack that I would be for the remainder of the race.

Once I started running at first daylight, the miles and aid stations just seemed to roll by. I only had to deal with one more hydration bottle delay at Mile 12 after which my superb crew (mother-in-law Peggy Walls at the race site and spouse Kim Walls running traffic control back home in Santa Rosa) executed flawless bottle refills and bottle drops for the remainder of the race, including hot tea & Gatorade fill-ups at key intervals during the night. I was prepared to solo the race and hadn’t counted on this level of support, but watching Peggy get into the spirit of the race competition made this a particularly memorable event for me! With her help, I was able to essentially skip three aid stations per loop and reduce my stops to only the Main Tent and the 12/32/52/72/92 mile aid stations. Consuming a 250 calorie + caffeine Spring Energy Speednut every 5-6 hours provided me with a noticeable boost as well. The effect on my progress was dramatic, and I continued to march up the field: 120th place at the 20 mile first loop, 84th at 40 mile second loop, 66th at 60 mile third loop, 41st at 80 mile fourth loop, and finishing 30th at 100 miles. Needless to say I never could have accomplished my best ever 100 mile time and finish without the support of my crew and the excellent volunteer staff at IT100.


I’ve never been on such a well maintained course: 100 miles of flowing single track, hard-packed wide trail, and off-camber grass (what an apropos description). Did I mention that many sections had gnarly roots painted fluorescent pink & orange? Major intersections were blocked off with yellow caution tape and signage was plentiful so there was never any doubt on route finding (There was that one sign that I missed at Mile 18 leaving the parking lot by Park Administration, but a fellow runner called out to save me). Beautiful autumn colors and falling leaves with a steady, crisp, cool wind, and filtered sunlight through the trees set the tone for the day. “Plan for anything, expect nothing” as coach reminds me before every race. So my in-race drama began with minor stumbles around 15 miles in: “Gosh, I’m shocked to find roots and rocks on this course” my body language projected to the runners around me. At about 25 miles came my first fall; a rock or root tripped me up, however I quickly shoulder-rolled and popped back up to my feet. A little dust, no serious damage, but the message was received: “This course is not inherently dangerous. But it is unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity, or neglect”. Forewarned is forearmed I supposed; but not enough to save me from another negligent fall at Mile 35. This time I was not so lucky; in the blink of an eye an invisible hand at my feet launched me into the air with no point of contact. Fatigue slowed my reaction time and translated my ad hoc roll into a full shoulder tackle of the glacial esker with a sickening crunch. Thoughts of another humiliating DNF crossed my mind along with intense bargaining to walk or crawl the remaining 65 miles if necessary just to finish the race. Although this could just as easily have been a broken collar-bone incident, my ribs took the brunt of the impact, made worse by the hard tops on the two soft-bottles I was carrying at the front of my vest. I briefly walked back up the trail to see what had tripped me up amongst the leaves and trail detritus, but quickly concluded it was a waste of time as the runner behind me was closing in “Did you lose something, can I help you find it?” she offered with a smile. Just my dignity and sense of trail security I thought to myself. “If the bone ain’t showing then keep on going…” is the running adage that seemed to apply here. I wasn’t spitting up blood, there was no grinding noises from by ribs, and besides I was pissed off now. So nowhere to go but forward, keeping in mind that I’d been put on final notice: I had no more falls to give, a third and I would be out…

The idea of posting a sub-24 hour, 100 mile time was deep in the back of my mind leading up to the race. More of a fantasy than an actual goal, since part of the mental preparation I’ve been working on over the past four years is to let go of race outcomes while sticking to a primary goal of just finishing with an emphasis on running the best race that I can via good race management and strong execution. On paper, the IT100 looked like a potentially fast course compared to the other ultras that I had participated in. It is near sea level, with cool temperatures, and has modest vertical gain of only about 8,000 ft. Certainly a PR was possible, but a sub-24 finish might be a stretch and I could not afford to jeopardize those 5 UTMB points. On race day as I finished Loop 2 at a projected 20-hour 100 mile pace, the idea of a sub-24 hour finish took hold. All I had to do was maintain my current effort, keep eating & drinking, not get lost, not fall again, and not succumb to hypothermia. My legs were still strong and Loop 3 would be a total daylight run. Even so I rigged for night running and switched out of my cushy & grip-fast Hoka Speedgoat 3 shoes into my tried and trusted Saucony Ride 7 trainers (my 20th pair of this model) to take advantage of the additional ground clearance and extra toe-space for my swelling feet. This turned out to be a crucial decision for the better as my mangled toes would testify to at the conclusion of the race.

I had been told by wiser (not older, since hardly any of my running friends are older than me nowadays) that in a five-loop 100 mile race the fourth loop is the one to watch out for. The fifth and final loop pretty much takes care of itself because, well, you’re on the home stretch. But that fourth loop can really mess with your head. So, in this case, forewarned was a good thing and I proceeded to go out and crush Loop 4. I discovered that the roots and rocks were actually easier to see in the dark with my two headlight setup. The fluorescent-pink painted roots were a welcome sight now too. Kind of like running-by-numbers: put your right foot here, left foot there, hop this way, etc. Pre-stashed bottles at Mile 72 aid station and helpful volunteers sped me along. Getting lapped by the race leader at Mile 75 (Mile 95 for him) was really not such a bad thing; he seemingly wasn’t really running that quickly: “Heck I could probably move that fast…” came a fleeting thought. Peggy got me out of Main Tent aid at Mile 80 with hot tea and a fist bump in no time flat.

Shortly before Main Tent aid at Mile 80 the wheels had shown signs of coming off. Fatigue in my left calf turned to cramping, and thence to a total lock-up every time I stopped or slowed; my right Achilles was flaring red hot with friction trauma; and I couldn’t cough or blow my nose lest my ribs explode in pain. Just like Doc. Yinger had predicted, the original right knee patellar tendonitis with which I had come into the race had faded into the background as if to say “Why are you looking at me?” But I placed guilt on that knee anyway because I knew it had started a kinetic chain of events that was going to make my final 20 miles miserable.

Attempting to run after leaving Mile 80 I tried to engage running speed, but there was nothing there! Visualize the Millennium Falcon “Jump-to-Hyperspace” scene in Star Wars; I pushed the run button and there was no response. By now my left calf had cramped to the point that I could barely manage a walk; shots of pickle juice provided at least some psychological comfort. My right Achilles was burning with fire at every step; I hadn’t changed socks when I switched shoes and the accumulated friction had sent it over the edge. I knew from experience that both of these annoyances would heal with time, which I would have plenty of following this season-ender. But it was clear that my slowed pace wasn’t going to reconcile with the goal of a sub-24 hour finish, so a new tactical plan was in order. The words of my coach came back to me: “There’s no excuse for not playing good defense…” So that earlier sub-14 min/mile fast-walk baseline pace that I had refined at the start of the race? Yep, back to defense baby. Taking it to the bitter end, whatever that may be…

Pushing hard toward a sub-24 hour finish, I now resolved to run everything that looked runnable. In other words, any trail sections clearly free of rocks, roots, and obstructions mandated hustle. I focused on keeping my stride compact and my foot placement tight & contained within the worn portions of the single track. In the grazing light of my double-headlight setup, it became easier to avoid the land mines that had tripped me up earlier in the day. My world thus reduced completely to a small ribbon of dirt directly in front of me, I dwelt in flow state for the better portion of the night. No pity, no whining, and no projections: Just assess, manage, and keep moving forward…with certainty towards an uncertain end…

So it was at Mile 93 that I was surprised by an unfamiliar tone from my GPS watch. I glanced down just as the message faded out “Battery Critical Low – Saving Activity”…then nothing but a dark screen…WTF!  I usually carry an extra charge battery with me because I know that my GPS unit can only go about 20 hours on a single charge. In retrospect, I had given it a quick boost at Mile 40 aid and it indicated 70% charge remaining so I had let it go. But I had also slowed down the last 60 miles, eating into my allotted time. Now I was seemingly screwed with no data for time, pace, or remaining distance (or heart-rate for that matter, although HR was irrelevant at this point as I had been nailing it in the zone all day). How was I to challenge a sub-24 finish with no watch? I just laughed at this nonsense because it was so ironic and fitting for the circumstances; in that moment I truly believed that I was right where I was supposed to be. I knew by scratch calculations in my head that I should be able to snag a sub-24 hour on paper, if I kept the pace up and finished strong. At this point, the only card remaining in my hand was the one marked “RUN YOUR ASS OFF” and now seemed like the right time to play it. So it was by pure dead reckoning and visceral feel that I finished the remaining 7 out of 100 miles, leaving everything out on the course, with perhaps my best splits of the entire race.


Crossing the finish line in 23:26:20 and collecting a sub-24 hour finisher’s buckle from Race Director Mike Pfefferkorn provided a much welcome sense of closure to a long season of growth, challenge, and learning for me. This season hadn’t come together exactly as planned, but as I went down the list of accomplishments: UTMB qualified…check; WSER qualified…check; 100 mile PR…check; sub-24 100 mile …check, I had to acknowledge that it was a very good year.

Become a hero in my own story…check.

2019 Student Grant Fund Recipients

The Empire Runners have 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 6 recipients a total of $6000 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 six 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 4-year high school career as a wide-eyed middle schooler showing up at her brother’s practices. Finding the early going a bit daunting, she found that long distance running took patience, determination and a “whole lot of grit”. Over the 4-year experience she not only continually improved to all-league status, she was voted most improved and a team captain.  Yet the journey was not without pitfalls; a myriad of running injuries, anemia and a severe car injury with a prolonged rehabilitation prior to her junior year.  She persevered and continued to improve and fall more in love with running, especially long training runs in Annadel.  She has continued to improve on the track with PRs of 5:34 1600, 12:24 3200 and 2 trips to the Redwood Empire meet. She also has best of 20:03 on the SLC and 3rd team All Empire in 2018.



This scholar athlete also shines in the classroom with an unweighted GPA of 3.84.  Besides being a great student, her teachers are impressed with her addition to the classroom and a positive impact on her fellow students while also participating as a TA in English and further aiding her fellow students. Somehow she also found time for shadowing at the SRJC sports medicine clinic on Fridays and volunteering in the community, especially with the Coffey Park Restoration Project.

Our first scholarship recipient has truly found the “love” of running and the many ways it positively impacts her life.  She loves the hard work and the joy of running with a group on long runs, at times pushing for just an extra mile or so.  She is planning on continuing her running career at SRJC with Coach Wellman’s strong program and complete her AS in Kinesiology and pre-Nursing requirements for transfer into a BS in Nursing Program.

Please welcome, the former SRHS panther, future Bearcub: Katrina Frandsen

Our second Student Grant Recipient began his running career on the track as a sprinter.  His cross-country experience began with a painful long, hot and arduous 30-minute summer run, and then convinced himself to come back the next day.

His story is one of consistent hard work and steady improvement.  His first race on the SLC was 21:48 and a close loss to his coach.  Fast forward to this year and our SGF winner has improved to 17:01 in his first Varsity season and improving to the #4 runner at State XC in his best run of 17:49 on a full 5K course.  He has continued this improvement in Track with PRs this year of 2:09 800, 4:44 1600, 10:53 3200.



As important as continued improvement and dedication has been to our recipient’s positive experience, he is equally aware how important his developing great friendships with teammates has been.  The shared experience of long runs, interval training and road trips to Invitationals, NCS and State will be something he cherishes forever.

He has worked hard in the classroom with an unweighted GPA of 3.4 with many AP and JC classes peppering his schedule.  He enjoys physics and math and is planning to continue his education in the engineering or STEM fields.  He also volunteers at many Empire Runner events, the Redwood Food Bank, is an active member of multiple school clubs and is a TA for AP Language and Composition.  He also plans to run with Coach Wellman’s Bearcub XC team and to continue his running improvement while preparing himself to continue his schooling at a 4-year University. Please put your hands together for former Piner Prospector and future SRJC Bearcub: Addison Gaspar

Our third SGF award winner began running with the SR Express with her siblings prior to attending high school. Following her brothers to high school she has run Track and XC for 3 years.  She has PR’s of 5:49 in the 1600 and 12:42 in the 3200 (both school records) and has run under 21 minutes on the SLC while making all league in the CMC in both track and XC this year.  What makes this more remarkable is she is just finishing her junior year.  Due to her school closure she has finished her high school requirements early with an unweighted GPA of 3.97 and will matriculate to SRJC to complete GE requirements and a possible transfer to Masters University in the near future.  Our young scholarship recipient has excelled in the classroom and has had a positive impact on fellow students in athletics, in class and especially as she leads her Speech and Debate team in national competition.  She is also Captain of the XC team, where she leads more by example than words.



She will redshirt this next year at SRJC which will enable her to continue getting stronger and improving while maintaining her 4 years of eligibility after transfer to a 4-year University. Please welcome our youngest recipient: Former Rincon Valley Eagle and future Bearcub: Allie Methum

Our next recipient also prepped at RVC.  He ran with the Express beginning in the 4th grade and continued in Track and XC for all 4 years in high school.  He has been a leading runner on the Varsity for the last two years, voted MVP of XC in 2017 and Captain in 2018. He has a PR of 16:24 on the SLC and ran 17:06 for a full 5K at the California State XC Meet in 2018.  He was most proud of his whole team qualifying to State this year where they finished 4th overall, the best result from the Redwood Empire.  He also has bests of 4:30.1 in the 1600 and 9:43.2 for the 3200 on the track.



Our recipient is considered one of the most dedicated runners and leaders in his coach’s long and storied career.  This young runner has embraced every challenge and has encouraged his teammates at every turn.  The story is the same in the classroom where he has maintained an unweighted GPA of 4.00 and has been a great addition in every class.  He has goals to continue running in college and to get his degree in Business and Music Production.  He will attend Masters University in Santa Clarita in the fall and join his brother running for Coach Zach Schroeder. Please put your hands together the former Rincon Valley Christian Eagle, future Mustang and brother to our previous award winner: Isaac Methum

Our penultimate SGF recipient began XC in freshman year and was an immediate point scorer on the Varsity squad.  He ran a PR of 16:21 on the SLC and ran well at NCS and the State XC Meet (17:00 on a full 5K course).  He has had to put his goals on standby many times during his 4 years of Track and XC while dealing with Sever’s disease of the heel.  Not to be deterred he has rehabbed multiple times, retrained and continued to improve throughout his career with PR of 15:58 on the SLC course, 15:53 at Hayward and 16:44 for the full 5K at Woodward Park. He also has bests of 4:29 for the 1600 and 9:38 for the 3200.

While being one of the top runners in the area he has also been Captain of his XC team, leading by the example of hard work and perseverance.  He has also excelled in the classroom with an unweighted GPA of 3.51 with an all AP class load.  While juggling this schedule he finds time to be involved with the Christian Club, volunteer with the Empire Runners and Redwood Gospel Mission. nhayes.jpg

As a result of his injury and rehab history, this SGF recipient has developed an interest in sports medicine.  His goals are to run with Coach Wellman at SRJC and get to the State Meet in XC and improve to sub 4:15 in the mile, 9:00 in the 2 mile.  He wants to complete his pre-requisites in 2 years and complete his studies at a 4-year university and continue running at the collegiate level.  With his skills and work ethic I expect him to attain those goals. Please welcome to the stage former Prospector and future SRJC Bearcub from Piner HS: Nathan Hayes

Our sixth and final recipient is a 4-year Track and Field varsity athlete and a 1-year XC varsity runner.  She is an all-around sprinter/jumper having raced 100, 200, 400, relays and the long and triple jumps. Our recipient’s track accomplishments are of continued improvements culminating in making it to the Redwood Empire meet in the 400 with a PR of 1:03.68 as a junior and in the long and triple jumps as a senior with PRs of 16’6/34”, 33’10” respectively.  Her long jump PR just missed the Top 50 All Time Redwood Empire. In her first year in XC, this SGF recipient not only was an immediate consistent point getter at the varsity level but as a senior was a strong leader for a very young team.  Her PR on the SLC is 21:34 with only a couple of races on the course. She also played 3 years of soccer.



On a different note, in the classroom, our final recipient has been at the pinnacle of excellence since Day 1. She finished her high school career with an unweighted GPA of 4.0, and a weighted 4.8.  She is ranked #1 in her class and was the Valedictorian. She is a four-time CSF recipient and is the vice president of CSF.  She has found time to be a member of the Key, Asian, Math and PHAST clubs throughout high school and was chosen for the prestigious Sonoma State Internship Program (SHIP) for one on one summer collegiate research with a University professor in Kinesiology.  Her teachers, coaches and fellow students agree that what truly separates her is her kindness and generosity towards others.

Our final recipient is ready to matriculate to the University of her choice: UC Santa Barbara. We are proud to bring to the stage a truly remarkable young lady; the former Piner Prospector and future Gaucho. Please put your hands together for: Lauren Gregorio

2019 40th Annual Phaby-Gray Resolution Run

40th Annual Phaby-Gray Resolution Run

January 1, 2019

By, Brad Zanetti

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!






  1. Dante Capone 15:22(4:57/M) **New Course Record**
  2. Scott Kruetzfeldt 15:50(5:06/M)
  3. Tyler Harwood 16:08(5:12/M)



  1. Sarah Hallas 18:20(5:55/M)
  2. Krista Drechsler 19:27(6:16/M)
  3. Sarah Skandera 19:36(6:19/M)





12 and under:

  1. Ruth Skandera 21:39(6:59/M)
  2. Isabella Mathiesen 22:47(7:21/M)
  3. Eleanor Farley 25:21(8:10/M)



  1. Sarah Skandera 19:36
  2. Rebekah Skandera 20:11(6:30/M)
  3. Josehine Rivera-Hoagland 21:53(7:03/M)



  1. Krista Drechsler 19:27
  2. Sarah Labberton 24:47(7:59/M)
  3. Jennifer Mason 27:32



  1. Sarah Hallas 18:20
  2. Gretchen Forrey 22:12(7:09/M)
  3. Andrea Guzman 22:54(7:23/M)



  1. Kerry Hanlon 21:27(6:55/M)
  2. Kate Farley 24:42(7:57/M)
  3. Andrea Foster 27:56(9:00/M)



  1. Cathy Dubay 19:47
  2. Val Sell 22:46(7:20/M)
  3. Nuvit Salz 22:53(7:23/M)



  1. Doreen Pinelli 23:42(7:38/M)
  2. Janet McCann 26:05(8:25/M)
  3. Marianne Moore 26:48(8:38/M)




12 and under:

  1. Paul Skandera 21:01(6:46/M)
  2. Daniel Skandera 21:51(7:03/M)
  3. Ian Farley 22:40(7:18/M)



  1. Scott Kreutzfeldt 15:50
  2. Paden Collard 16:44(5:24/M)
  3. Nolan Hosbein 16:56(5:27/M)



  1. Dante Capone
  2. Tyler Harwood
  3. Joe Ruiz 17:23(5:36/M)



  1. Thomas Parker 17:52(5:45/M)
  2. Francisco Azevedo 19:42(6:21/M)
  3. David Park 20:51(6:43/M)



  1. Brandon Bannister 17:05
  2. Vince Viloria 19:58(6:26/M)
  3. Andrew Taylor 20:13(6:31/M)



  1. Andy Howard 19:36(6:19/M)
  2. Troy Tuscher 20:14(6:31/M)
  3. Philippe Thibault 20:17(6:32/M)



  1. Rob Main 21:52(7:03M)
  2. Brian McSweeney 23:20(7:31/M)
  3. Vernon Stafford 24:09(7:47/M)



  1. Lon Wiley 21:51(7:03/M)
  2. Jon Hermstad 23:49(7:41/M)
  3. Brendan Hutchinson 25:17(8:09/M)


80 and over:

  1. Darryl Beardall