Category Archives: MEMBER PROFILES

Profiles of members in the club.

Melody Karpinski: Member Interview

Dec15Melody_Murdoch03Question: The most important question first – what’s your favorite kind of coffee and roast? Medium roast Ethiopian Harrar? And what’s your favorite preparation – French press, pour over, drip? Do you add cream and sugar? Favorite coffee shop???

Answer: You must know me pretty well to know this is the most important question. My favorite roast is always anything dark and usually some kind of African/South American blend. My favorite coffee no longer exists because it’s a 2011 holiday blend made by Peet’s Coffee & Tea where I worked during my senior year of college. I generally prefer Americanos, but French press is my favorite for regular coffee prep. I always add a little cream. My favorite coffee shop is always whichever new one I discover during traveling.

How did you transition from being a journalism major at Point Loma Nazarene University, and working as a journalist, to working at a running store?

Dec15Melody_Murdoch06There is no short answer to this question! I originally  began as an English major because I’ve always loved reading and writing, but a journalism class at the JC sparked my interest. I balanced being the editor of the SRJC student newspaper, the Oak Leaf, while competing for Coaches Whit & Pat on the track team. I transferred to Point Loma to major in journalism, where I went through a wonderful program with excellent professors.

I never settled into a specific career after college and for most of my life I’ve always worked more than one job at a time. The summer after I graduated, I worked as a freelance journalist for a number of different San Diego news outlets, as a copy editor for a jazz magazine, helped run a church home for women coming off of the street, served up lattes as a barista…..get the idea? When I returned to Santa Rosa, I continued more of the same tune, working as a freelancer for the Press Democrat, part-time as a barista, part-time at Fleet Feet and part-time as an administrative assistant.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch09I had the privilege of transitioning to full-time at the Press Democrat at one point a few years ago, and got to call some pretty amazing reporters and photojournalists my colleagues. While I was there the Boston Marathon bombing happened and it was quite surreal to sit at my desk surrounded by screens full of images coming out of the attack scene. I interviewed a customer of Fleet Feet’s who was in the race for our Press Democrat coverage of the story. Because of being part of the coverage, the Boston Marathon attack will always stick in my mind as a truly tough day more than other tragedies.

Eventually, I decided I didn’t want to just be writing stories – I wanted to be living one. Though I will always love and respect the news business, new doors were opening elsewhere. I left the newspaper, went full-time with Fleet Feet and then began coaching at RVC (Rincon Valley Christian).  I’ve enjoyed getting to learn a new kind of business, and couldn’t ask for a better boss or staff to work with at Fleet Feet. Coaching has always been a dream of mine and my athletes are some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch04What is it about running that you love the most? 

The way it clears my head like nothing else can. The way the trails speak to me amid the peaceful air and all the memories from high school and college Annadel carries for me. The way it serves as an outlet and becomes a tool to challenge myself. The way it creates a safe space for soul-searching. The way I see it mold and shape character in my athletes, my fellow runners, my fellow coaches and myself.

Tell us about coaching at Rincon Valley Christian – how do you think running has enhanced the lives of some of the kids that you have been coaching? Have you witnessed some major changes in their attitudes? Is running really just a conduit for a different kind of essential learning?

Dec15Melody_Murdoch02Everyday I get to see first hand how running molds and shapes character in my athletes, how it makes them understand the value of hard work and appreciate the effort it takes to achieve a goal whether individually or as a team. I wish I could tell you running has also magically curbed their smart aleck tongues, but those are still alive and well in all of them. The conversations that occur in my athlete carpool should be the subject of some kind of SNL skit. One day, I actually missed two different turns to Annadel on the way to practice because they were making me laugh so hard and we were nearly 10 minutes late. I’m sure it was just a carefully executed tactical attempt to get out of hill repeats.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch07Running is absolutely a conduit for learning life lessons, and the ability to have vision for your life goals. It also is a great place to see how you respond under pressure (managing stress), react to a loss (maintaining a good attitude), deal with an injury (overcoming disappointment), encourage your fellow teammates and competitors (practicing good sportsmanship) and achieve a goal (lots of hard work). As coaches, we have the opportunity to help cast that vision and give them the best tools possible to achieve their individual and/or team goals.

There’s never been a title I’ve been more privileged to carry than that of “coach.” Some of my greatest influencers in life were my high school/college coaches and the responsibility of this is the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night. It’s been an incredible privilege over the last year-and-a-half of coaching to watch how one season of cross-country or track can change someone’s life.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch08What is the one race your most proud of? Not the race where you got your best time, or had the biggest medal, but the one that challenged you the most mentally and physically? Is it really about the medal?

The race I’m probably most proud of (despite my time) was my first marathon last month. I did the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. and it is an experience I will never forget. My hip flexors are still reminding me how unforgettable it was.

Before I left for DC, my high school coach Harry Skandera (who I coach with now at RVC) thought it might be really encouraging to me to share a story about how he hated running one of his first marathons so much that he crawled under a car in the middle of the race and just laid there for a while. He still got up, finished in a decent time and even ran a few more marathons later on I believe. It was pretty funny to think about my All-American coach, who took our high school to state multiple times, collapsed under a car in the middle of a race. It also wasn’t particularly uplifting, so one of my race goals became “don’t crawl under a car.”

It is definitely the most mentally and physically challenging run I have ever completed, and there were multiple times throughout the race I would happily have given up the finisher’s medal just to crawl under a car for a few minutes. I missed my time goal pretty severely, but I didn’t crawl under a car and I finished so that’s a plus.

You have a fascinating blog called “thisloveitlookslikesomething”. I’m wondering if you have a Christian perspective of running, since running mirrors life in so many ways – hard work, patience, practice, sometimes real pain and suffering, and even jubilation.

Dec15Melody_Murdoch05I’m impressed you found my blog! I thought only my mom and best friend read it. My faith has always been an integral part of my running and vice versa. The first time I ever heard about the sport of cross-country was when Sara Bei Hall spoke at my basketball awards in junior high I think right after she won Footlocker nationals. During her speech, she spoke a lot about her faith being part of her running.

I went out for cross-country a few years later and started to understand what she was talking about. I used to carry this wrinkled old piece of paper with a couple of quotes on it around in my spike bag to read before races. On it was a Bible verse (Is. 40:31) and a portion of Eric Liddell’s speech from Chariots of Fire. It’s a much longer quote than this, but it ends with: “If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.”

My blog posts are responses to the question of “What does love look like?” My life motto used to be pretty long and dramatic, but over the last five years or so I’ve whittled it down to this: love well and love more.

What do you think of this video? Have you seen it before?

Dec15Melody_Murdoch09AI had never seen it before, but I really liked it! I think the idea of doing something hard is starting to become foreign in today’s Western society. We’ve also started to develop a somewhat coddling culture where “every kid makes the team” and “everyone’s a winner.” I wrote an op-ed piece when I was the opinion editor at the PLNU student newspaper in response to a Boston Globe article about how teachers were switching to purple pens because red ink was “shown to have negative psychological effects.” I think this line of reasoning just sets you up to struggle so much more because it’s not real life. We will all face hardship and we will all have a dream we will have to work to achieve. Running is a sport where it’s pretty easy to see who worked out and who didn’t. The work isn’t easy.

Comparatively, the faith walk is not an easy task. It takes hard work. It’s easy to talk a big game and say you’re a certain kind of Christian. It’s not easy when hard things come, big questions pop up and you’re made fun of for your beliefs. It’s also easy to talk up a race and say you’re a certain kind of runner. It’s not easy when injuries come, goals aren’t met and people doubt your potential. You always have a decision – quit or keep on running?

What are your running goals for the future? Have you signed up for any races in 2016?

I think I’d like to change it up a little bit and do a lot more of my least favorite hard thing – speed work. I love the Summer Track series and got to coach an introductory youth track club for 6 – 12-year-olds through Fleet Feet last year where we trained to run the series so that was a blast. I started trying to chase down some of my college track times because I think I’m stronger now than I was then. Still have some work to do there, but getting to run with my high school athletes a few days a week is an easy way to push myself.

My first half was the Annadel Half so I’ve done that the last couple of years, and I’ll probably do it again this year. During the race this year I was on track to PR by around 10 minutes, fell down pretty hard around mile eight, and then got so upset about it that I PR’d by over 18 minutes! I’m sorry to say the Fall=PR Strategy worked multiple times in 2015, so I’m adamantly looking to improve my race strategy for 2016. You know, just to avoid further scars.







Shawn Sullivan: Pine to Palm 100 – 23:03:42

Nov15_Sullivan002Question: Hi Shawn, congratulations on finishing the Pine to Palm 100 miler in less than 24 hours and getting 9th place! That is a huge accomplishment! What motivated you to enter this particular race? Is it the longest race you have completed so far?

Answer: This is the longest distance I’ve raced but this would be my third hundred miler…I was actually at this race last year crewing and pacing another runner. I knew before my runner was even halfway through the race that this was a race I wanted to do – it’s beautiful course, great vibe, and great people .


Running 100 miles means you have a lot of time to think about things on the trail. Do you have a strategy for keeping your mind focused?Does your mind sometimes attempt to convince yourself that you should stop and give up? How do you deal with the psychological aspects of running so far?

Well although you’re thinking about the finish line, you should really run aid station to aid station, and breaking it in smaller chunks helps a lot. Your mind tells you not to even show up at the start line…haha, but yes it can be a battle in your head at any moment or the entire time! I have started using an iPod on these long ones – I’ll usually have an audiobook and a bunch of different music .

Nov15Murdoch07How did you survive the “three epic climbs of 7000 feet” with over 20K of elevation gain? Did you ever have to walk?

Oh yeah, you walk or power hike, although I don’t think I walked a step up until 35-40 miles in. If you’re running slow enough that you could be walking the same speed then you should be walking and keeping your heart rate down. The first climb was really good and I was fresh, my adrenaline was going (on 2 1/2 hours sleep even),  plus running at the front you kind of feel like you’re being chased. The second climb was pretty awesome as well – I was really excited to get to the top of Dutchmen Peak because I had just climbed back into third place (after losing about six spots) and I would be getting a pacer when I got to the top. The third climb was not so great.  I had quit eating about 10 miles before this climb, apparently my stomach was not OK with me eating around 25 Roctanes and a few other gels. Although the view at the top of Wagner Butte is pretty awesome it looks down on Medford I believe, and this was the toughest part of the race for me.


Do you “enjoy” these long races? How would you describe the experience and the outcome? Is it the challenge that it is seemingly impossible? Is it the special belt buckle you get at the end?

Oh definitely I love these things, there’s such a sense of community and family in trail running. The experience itself is kind of hard to put into words, how you feel from moment to moment during the race isn’t necessarily the same as when you reflect on the overall endeavor. You may have extreme lows that seem unsurpassable in the moment but slightly less significant when you look back at the big picture. And yeah the belt buckle is pretty sweet too.


What does your body experience after twenty miles……forty miles……sixty miles…..eighty miles………?? Do you find that your body goes through various stages ranging from feeling ok to feeling like your entire body is rebelling against you?

Oh man that’s so hard to answer! It’s always different, I don’t blister so that’s never an issue.  Depending on how long I’m out there the sleep monster tries to get me at some point or maybe multiple points.

And yes my body has rebelled in so many ways, and although seemingly impossible at the moment most things can be overcome, barring causing permanent damage of course.


What is your hydration and nutrition strategy? How often do you drink and eat, and what? Do you ever get sick, meaning either diarrhea or throwing up? Anything special in your drop bags at the aid stations?

Nutrition is a constant learning process for me. Up to the 50 K distance I used to just drink Cokes and eat Oreos. These days I’m trying to use just mixes and gels, they’re so convenient in so many ways. For me I try to be consistently eating and drinking, a slow steady flow into my stomach works best. I’ve gotten sick a few times, nothing too bad, but it’s just convincing yourself to eat afterwards that’s the hard part. Drop bags hmm – depending on the course layout and crew availability maybe a light rain jacket and headlamp. Individual wet wipes can be very handy…….you get pretty dirty out there.


During the race itself, do you have any stories of anything that happened? Something interesting that happened along the way?

Ha!  Yeah we were just talking about this – one of my pacers/crew who shall remain nameless (Jeff Knapp) apparently took a projectile bottlecap to the face. Apparently when you take a homebrew up a few thousand feet it might not respond well? Hopefully I can get you a picture one of the course photographers snapped.

During a standard 10K, basically everyone is out there running for themselves and it’s over pretty fast. In a long race like this, do the competitors help each other?


Yeah the community feeling in these races is awesome, you’re all out there to get it done and cross that finish line, just some faster than others. And yes, as a matter fact, I was getting dehydrated about 35 miles in due to overshooting my crew by 45 minutes and not being able to get an extra bottle for the exposed section coming up. I figured when I got to the aid station I would just drink extra and take some salt with me but that aid station hadn’t gotten any salt tabs yet so a few miles out from that aid station a fellow competitor passed me and asked “Do you need anything?” and gladly offered up some salt tabs. This is one of the many reasons I love ultra running. I don’t think any of us would leave a fellow runner in distress if we could help,  just for the sake of beating them.

Based on the results, I counted that 120 people started the race, but only 75 finished – that’s a 37% drop out rate. Almost all of them quit at 52 miles or less. Why do you think so many people drop out?


Hundred mile races are tough and this course is no joke. To start the first 10 miles is just a consistent climb followed by a 10 mile dissent and then mile 30 to 50 was pretty exposed.  That could have something to do with why most runners dropped at 52 miles.

What was your greatest high during the race? And compare that to your worst low?

Greatest high would be running up to the top of Dutchmen peak after taking several spots back and now being back on the podium …biggest low was probably climbing Wagner Butte – it’s not even that long of a climb but it just never seemed to end.

Did you do anything to reward yourself after the race?

I took a nap ….


Would you recommend this run to someone considering their first 100 Miler?

Sure – it’s a very doable course in a beautiful area, and you can’t beat a point to point race.


Here is the link to the Pine to Palm 100 website:  

Here is the link to the results:

2015 Ilsanjo Classic 10 Miler, Neo-Classic 4-Miler, and Newt Scoot, March 8th, 2015
2015 Ilsanjo Classic 10 Miler, Neo-Classic 4-Miler, and Newt Scoot, March 8th, 2015

Heart (and Soul) of a Champion, by Mike Fanelli

Oct15Fanelli02While not exactly the Precambrian era, in 1972 most television sets were still black and white and virtually every single American running track was still covered in cinder. That summer, in a Sonoma County town better known for wrist wrestling than track & field, an aspiring half miler was glued to the broadcast of the Munich Olympic Games. All eyes were on Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter and some guy from Finland who was reputed to drink nothing but reindeer milk. Oh, and there was that 800 meter race where a hat-wearing guy from Ohio went from dead last after one lap to a miraculous and entirely unanticipated gold medal victory. That Petaluma lad went out almost immediately thereafter and got himself a golf cap, causing his high school teammates to forever nickname him Wottle-ridge…Danny Wottle-ridge.


Fast forward to just less than three years later when the telephone rings in the Aldridge family abode. “Hello, my name is Dave Wottle and I am trying to reach Dan Aldridge.” Pause. “”Um, this is Danny Aldridge.” … “Well great…thanks for taking my call. I wanted to talk to you about the reasons why Bowling Green is the perfect place for you to come to school next year.”

Within the week several other such calls arrived from men like Jim Ryun regarding the University of Kansas and why his alma was the one that ‘matered’.

In 1956 the two time Olympian-to-be, Jerry Siebert, (Willits HS) set the county two lap mark. One he would hold for nineteen long years. Danny massacred that standard with his still standing half mile mark of 1:49.7… an Empire benchmark that remains unsurpassed four entire decades later, hence the nature of the Wottle and Ryun sort of telephone calls. Schooling at USC, Santa Rosa JC and then Cal Poly San Luis Obispo would follow. As a CPSLO Mustang, Danny would win the NCAA Dll 1500 meter title twice and his 3:40.67 set eons ago in 1978 remains that institution’s school record 37 years thereafter.


Allow me if you will to zoom ahead even further into the  future to 1981 when, just shy of nine years after donning his Wottlesque cap, Danny now representing the famed Sub 4 Track Club, finds himself lining up alongside the Kenyan great, Henry Rono, best known for setting 4 world records in just 81 days. The event was the one mile run at the Bruce Jenner Invitational Track Meet held annually at San Jose City College. Aldridge’s best ever mark at that time was a 4:04. At the halfway point, Danny, Rono, and another Kenyan, Kip Cheruiyot were inseparable as they split 880 yards in 2:01. Then the real racing began as Rono surged into the lead with the Petaluma kid right on his tail when the timer called out “3:01” at the three quarter mark. It was a ‘now or never’ moment going into the fourth lap when Aldridge aggressively grabbed the reins. By the time they hit the final turn, all that was going through the mind of the 24 year old Aldridge was concentration on technique…”quick feet, drive arms, relaxed shoulders.” Danny maintained his form all the way up the homestretch, elated to have beaten the mighty African. Only some twenty minutes after the fact, when the announcer confirmed his winning time of 3:59.9, did he know for sure that a 1975 vow he had made to his high school coach, Doug Johnson, had become a reality. Dan Aldridge was now a bona fide sub four minute miler. It remains the only sub-4 mile by a Sonoma County athlete to this very day.


Mr. Aldridge’s running career continued to blossom as a Eugene, Oregon based Nike sponsored member of the famed Athletics West squad. He’d break four minutes on two more occasions and also record 3:38.70 for the 1500 meters…a time that translates to precisely 3:56.19 for the one mile distance. At the Crystal Palace in London, Danny would rabbit Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe at faster than 1500 meter world record pace. At the other end of the spectrum he’d win the NapaValley Marathon twice. In between he’d step off personal bests of 13:30.95 for the 5,000 meters and 28:28.84 for twice the distance. That’s an awful lot of athletic success across a wide array of distances and over a very long time. When asked the single best advice he had ever received, Danny replied “Don’t chase times, chase competition. The times will come if you just get out there and race.” Insightful words of wisdom that he offers up to the athletes that he coaches here in the Redwood Empire.

Although he very much shies away from the spotlight, when Dan Aldridge speaks, people listen.


As a coach of aspiring middle and long distance runners for more than twenty five years, Dan has mentored some of the county’s very best. While at Sonoma State University he fostered the talent of Mike Stone, a 13:53 5,000 meters Olympic Trials qualifier. He trained Santa Rosa High School superstar, Julia Stamps, to glory and is currently the guiding light for phenom Rylee Bowen and her Sonoma Academy teammates. Although entirely reticent to accept any credit whatsoever for having done so, his role as athlete and coach has inspired countless Sonoma County runners to be their very best. But wait, there’s more. Pop into the aptly named Heart and Sole running store on Brookwood in Santa Rosa and you are in for a treat. Dan’s shop teems with history and knowledge. It’s a veritable running museum with Dan as its living treasure. When you go in, Danny makes you feel immediately comfortable as if you just slipped on your favorite old sweater. Ask him about the mementos that line the walls. Ask about improving your half marathon time. Ask about the weather, the news, the game, but whatever you do, don’t ask him whom he beat, when and by how much. That line of questioning is just not part of his heart, nor his soul.




Question: You’ve been a trainer for a long time. People get motivated and work out, but then they may lose interest and quit. In your experience and observation, what is it that keeps people exercising on a regular basis, indefinitely? What is the root motivation?


Answer: In one word, Community! It has been my experience that when you build a network or community of like minded people they form a bond. Those people keep each other motivated and enthusiastic about showing up for their workouts together. I am a Personal Trainer which, in most cases, personal trainers provide one on one training but, because of what I have learned over the years, the great majority of my trainings are group oriented. We work very hard but we also have fun doing it because everyone is in it together. These clients are not only accountable to me but to their peers. I provide workouts that are challenging but every level of fitness can still participate. We can make modifications for every exercise when needed. We work on stability, mobility, strength, endurance, speed, agility, flexibility, and balance. Every day the workouts are different so boredom and plateaus do not set in. We get results…another big reason that they stay motivated!

Since you’re human as well (we assume), you must also have training highs and lows. When you hit a low, what motivates you personally to keep going, to work harder, to get back to the place you were before?


My biggest motivation is to set the best example as a coach. I work hard to make sure all of my clients, as well as my family and friends, know that I am in this process of healthy living right along with them. I expect the same and more from myself as I do from them. I acknowledge the days, that we all have, that may be more difficult than others to keep on moving, to keep making good choices with what goes in our mouths. Personally, I always try to have some kind of carrot dangling out in front of me to go after…a running race, a mud adventure, a big hike. This way I don’t have an excuse to put off my training.

Is the concept of a “Boot Camp” to in some respects shock someone out of their normal thinking and habits and to realize there is an alternative way of living?

 Many people are intimidated by the words “Boot Camp”. This way of exercise is so much more than just what these words tend to mean. In the fitness industry we use it to let people know it is going to be a hard workout. It is hard but it is done in a kind, safe, fun way. I make sure anyone can participate and get something great out of it. All in all it is a circuit training workout using weights, body weight, fitness toys, etc with various timing methods to produce that “out of your comfort zone” feeling and get results!

Message board created by Lawrence Phillips
Message board created by Lawrence Phillips

In your experience, which goals that people set for themselves work the best in the long term?

This is the golden question because healthy living is as much about psychology as it is about the physical activity and eating. First of all, the goal has to motivate you and be important to you. You have to be doing it for yourself and you have to be committed. I always ask my clients to set themselves up for success as best they can. They have to take on the “I must do this, I can do this” attitude. They must have accountability and engage others in their goal so they are more apt to stick with it because others are now counting on them too. Of course, as a trainer, we learn the SMART goal setting…Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound. I follow this practice with my clients and I also ask them to keep a journal, at least in the beginning until things become a habit.

What advice do you give people when they want to give up?


One of my favorite quotes is from Tom Hanks…It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. It’s the hard that makes it great!” and from Winston Churchhill…Never, never, never give up.”   I have clients that need that extra push and I even need this sometimes so I have them choose a weekly mantra and post it everywhere that their day takes them…car, bathroom mirror, desk, refrigerator, etc etc. It really does help.

What are the most common false beliefs that people have that prevent them from exercising?


 I could spend the whole interview on this question! The biggest and the worst…I DON’T HAVE TIME!Everyone has time. Most of us are awake for 16 hours a day. Even 20-30 min of exercise a day is great for most and that is less than 3% of the day! It has to be an appointment to yourself at least 5-6 days a week. There are so many resources available to suit any interest level and skill level to make this happen. “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live and you only get one!” Another one I get often is, “I need to get in shape before I can join a gym or do a class”. My response is if you come to class you WILL get in shape!!!

You’re TRX certified. Do you think this has a place in most runners’ weekly repertoire? I heard Paul Berg is doing this.


TRX stands for Total Body Resistance Exercise and Yes, I believe that it can certainly enhance a runner’s performance. TRX training requires you to engage your core with every exercise so you get a total-body workout. It leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform so many great exercises. I incorporate it in to many of my weekly group and personal training sessions and Nan Hall owns a TRX studio on Mendocino Ave. That is where I sent Paul Berg and he has had fantastic results. I highly recommend it as well as many other great cross training activities to help runner’s improve their abilities.

Which running race stands out in your mind as being the most memorable and why?

I actually have two that are equal for different reasons. The Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco was a favorite because the course is awesome winding through the city and what girl doesn’t love a blue Tiffany Jewelry Box handed to her at the finish line by a handsome fireman in a tuxedo!!! Talk about motivated to finish.

Oct15ShelliMain03The 2008 Boston Marathon was also so memorable. About 23 Empire Runner’s did various marathons in hopes of qualifying for Boston that year. We all gathered together as a group and rented a big home and spent most of a week exploring Boston. The Marathon was the highlight and it was so awesome to share this and feel supported by our great group. I had one of my best times in a marathon that day and decided that is where I would retire from that distance…went out with a BANG!

I saw on your Facebook page you had some photos of a mud run you participated in – did you quite literally swallow some mud? Would you recommend these events for runners?

I LOVE to do Mud Runs!!! Mud runs are actually my favorite events to do these days. I have one coming up in Granite Bay on Nov 1st called the Merrell Down and Dirty 10k. I love them because it engages my skills as a pretty decent runner as well as all of my strength, speed, and agility in doing the various obstacles. I am also pretty fearless and that helps. I don’t mind being uncomfortable which is required in these fun and very muddy events.


Do I swallow mud…I try not too but it can happen. John Staroba gave me the best advice when I set out to do my very first event. He said “wear swim goggles around your neck and right before you get to each mud pit put them on”. “It will give you a huge advantage over the others that get mud in their eyes”. He was so right!!!    I was also a contestant, a few years ago, on the TV show called Wipeout. I made it to the second round of competition. And YES, I got WIPED out! We had a party at Legends Golf Course the night it aired and many Empire Runner friends came to watch. Doc (Alec Isabeau) was in attendance so he could see why he had to put Humpty Dumpty (ME) back together again. His mouth was wide open in disbelief most of the evening. It wasn’t the smartest thing I have done in my life but I will never forget it.

Previously you were a volunteer coach and race director for Girls on the Run Sonoma County for four years. What insights did you gain during those four years?


Working with all these young girls was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. To know the impact you can have, early on in their lives, planting that seed of healthy living both mentally and physically with them is beyond fantastic! Teaching them so many wonderful, valuable lessons and opening up communication on subjects that aren’t normally touched on in a school setting or even sometimes in the family environment, such a wonderful thing to be part of. The bonus was being able to share my love and passion for running to these young girls. Several discovered that running was actually its own sport and they came to love it. They went on to run with Santa Rosa Express and now for their high schools. The ones who didn’t necessarily embrace the love of running still made so many friends that they might not otherwise have hung out with at school, they learned the discipline of working toward a goal, in this case, a 5k and all the joy that comes when you work hard for something and achieve it. Girls on the Run is also fantastic because over and over I would see the whole family embrace the idea and many would run right along with their daughter.

When Girls on the Run decided to start hosting their own 5k events, I knew I was the person for the job. My love of running in races and all the details that go in to making a race a pleasant, fun experience along with my passion for the organization of Girls on the Run was a perfect fit. Many of our Empire Runners club members volunteered their time on many different levels as well as donated financially to the event. I couldn’t have done it without them!

Do fire fighters feel that their physical training is essential prior to a major fire like the Valley Fire?

I don’t work directly with firefighters but my father was 37 years Cal Fire, my brother is Santa Rosa City Fire and my son-in-law is Cal Fire. That is how my fitness business name… Fitness On Fire NorCal came to be and why red is, by far, my favorite color. Red is a power color and it all works together and I really resonate with it!


I do have several fire fighters as clients. Yes, they do take their training very serious. Their jobs require so much out of them, including disrupted sleep on a daily basis. I probably should keep my answers at that so I don’t step in to territory that isn’t my expertise. Both my brother and son-in-law, and one of my long term clients have worked very hard on all of the horrendous fires we have had this season. I am so grateful to them for all that they do.

What does your training and diet look like?

Last year I did an experiment with myself that really paid off…After talking to some of our professional triathlete friends, and picking their brains about nutrition, I decided to try a mostly plant based diet. I removed dairy and gluten all together to help with my stomach issues and inflammation issues. Val Sell was also a very big help with advice, recipes, etc The story is long but I will make it short in that I lost about 10 lbs, I felt fantastic, and I set big PR’s in all most every single event that I participated in.


On the physical side of things, I cut my running down to 2-3 days max a week. I kept my long run at a 10 mile base and the other days I did tempo, speed and or hills. My focus was more on building my strength with TRX, plyometrics, weight and body weight training, anaerobic training and agility. I took 1 full day off per week from exercise. I increased my sleep to 9 hours per night. I was injury free for over a year even though I pushed myself to new limits.

Unfortunately, I made one mistake this year and I wore the wrong shoes to a speed workout and it resulted in plantar fasciitis….but…I will be back with a vengeance!

Where can people contact you?

I have my own personal training business called Fitness On Fire NorCal. My website is   I am also a trainer at Team LP Fitness Playground on Farmer’s Lane. I LOVE what I do!!!

Member Profile: Nick Spector

Question: Hi Nick, congrats on your recent win at Golden Gate 8K Double on August 2nd ! I don’t think many Empire club members have run a double before…..what is it like running a 5K all out, taking a break, then running a 3K? How long is the break? How would you compare it psychologically to a regular race? Do you change your tactics?

Answer: Thanks! To be honest, it’s a lot like doubling in a high school/college track meet so it’s not that new to me (or other runners my age) I’d say. Though the break is around an hour, so maybe a little less than what I’m used to. I think the best strategy for me is to approach the first half like that’s the only part of the race and then figure out the 2nd half when I get there. In the ones I’ve done I liked to have the lead after the 5k because I everyone has felt how hard it is to come back after falling back in a race and with a break in between that gives me the extra confidence because everyone has extra time to think about how they are going to try to come back.


It also seems not many of our members are familiar with the Ujena Fit Club – what are the advantages of joining and do you log your training and races online there?

At first I just made the account because you need to have one in order to accept prize money from them, but after a while I noticed that’s its sort of a neat way to keep up on what’s happening in other races around the Bay Area since that’s where it’s based out of.

What’s the Bob Anderson connection? Bathing suits?

Bob founded the magazine Runners World and apparently he got bored with only being successful with that so he created this whole new Double Race series. I think he also founded a swimwear company but I don’t know too much about that. He’s a nice guy and have been inviting me to do more doubles since I’ve had success and I can’t really say no since I’m a broke grad student but they’ve been fun.

What did you major in at SOKA University in Aliso Viejo? Was that a good experience for you? Did they have a cross country and track team?

I majored in Social and Behavioral Science. My experience there was unforgettable and I would have made the same college decision again in a heartbeat. Soka is in the NAIA and has both XC and track and I made it to nationals 7 times (between xc, indoor & outdoor) and was a 5k all American on the track my senior year in 2014.


Are you currently studying Kinesiology at Chico State? What are your career aspirations?

Yea I’m currently on my way to a M.A. in Kinesiology grad at Chico and am using my psychology background to emphasize in sport psychology. Right now I’m thinking about maybe going into sport psychology consulting or going on to more school, but honestly I change my mind every day. I ran for the XC team last fall here because I had one season of eligibility left from when I studied abroad in Ecuador while I was at Soka and now I’m an assistant and still get to train with the team.

How would you compare your high school running state of mind with your current competitive state of mind? What have you learned since then?

For a long time in high school I was just doing it because it was fun and my friends where doing it so I didn’t take it super seriously until my senior year. Once I started taking it seriously I saw my PR’s drop significantly (from running 4:49 pace in my 2-mile PR in high school to running 4:38 pace in my 5k PR in college). Going through college I definitely had to sacrifice a lot to achieve my goals and sometimes that wasn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when I was lining up for my 5k final at nationals in Alabama while my class was graduating in California, but seeing what comes out of it made being a collegiate athlete totally worth it. Overall I just learned that patience and persistence will get you want in this sport.


What’s your mental preference – track, XC, or road racing? Or all three?

At this point I’m definitely most comfortable on the track but I’ve always liked to say that XC is my favorite, I mean you can’t really be from Sonoma County and not say XC was your favorite right? As a post collegiate I’m trying to become more comfortable on the roads but I’m still getting used to that.

What races do you have coming up? What are your running goals in the future?

I’m planning on doing the Empire Open at the end of August and some more of the PA cross country series races around Nor Cal this fall and Rock n Roll San Jose this September. I guess my biggest running goals right now are to do well at Club Nationals in SF this winter and try to run 1:05 in a half by January since that’s the cutoff for the trials. I’m not really sure how running 1:05 will turn out, but that’s sort of where I’m at with my running at this point.



Inspired by Belief, by Doug Murdoch

By 2012, I had been running for a couple of years but was suffering from a serious hip injury that kept me from running consistently.

At the time, I really looked up to Empire members Andy “Mr. Durable” Howard and Bryan “Zen Master” Porter because they were both running impressively, were just a bit older than I, and were more experienced. Andy, at age 50, had broken five minutes in the mile and had run the 400M in 58.09, setting the Empire record. And Bryan, also at age 50, ran 5:02 in the mile and 59.8 in the 400 meters at Empire track meets that year. I remember that 400 meter race very clearly because I called off 30 seconds to Bryan when he passed the 200 meter mark.

However, during this period I stopped showing up to ERC events because I was embarrassed about my injury. Being very competitive, I was really uncomfortable showing up for an event if I couldn’t run, or if I could not run my best effort.

Andy was and always has been known as rarely afflicted by injury, Mr. Durable so-to-speak. Except for when he got injured walking up Fountain Grove Drive, but that’s a different story.

However, shortly after this, Bryan started experiencing various injuries, and, much to my surprise, he kept showing up at the Empire races, racing the best he could. This was difficult for me to understand at first. How could someone show up for a race, dealing with aches and pains, and run slower than they normally would? I spoke to him numerous times about his experiences running while enduring his various physical problems and was impressed by his positive attitude and personal fortitude.

It’s easier to give up than to keep showing up.

But Bryan kept showing up, and he truly believed that if he had patience, his injuries would subside and he would return to normal again.

His viewpoint definitely had an impact on me. I started to attend Empire races, and even if I couldn’t run, I started to take photos for the club as a way of participating in the event.

In terms of my injuries, I started to strategize about how I could keep training while managing my various ailments. As it turns out, this has been one of the keys to my running success: not expecting the aches and pains will go away, but instead getting them treated and to keep on running continuously.

I talked to Bryan again at the first Tamalpa track meet this year, and he showed up to watch but did not run.

I sent him this Facebook message afterwards:

DM: I’ve been spending some time reflecting on being older and running. After I spoke to you at the Tamalpa track meet, I thought that you were inspired by belief, meaning that your inspired by the belief that you will get better if you remain positive and keep training. Do you think that’s right?

BP: Yes. I really do. It’s in me.






Question and Answer with Paul Berg, currently our club President, and beer aficionado.

Question: What is your theory about the connection between distance runners and beer drinking? Why do runners love beer?

Answer: In addition to the cold refreshment factor, we can imagine that the barley and hops are liquid carbs, somehow beneficial in replenishing our depleted energy stores. But bottom line, alcohol is the world’s most popular painkiller.

The most important thing Empire members want to know is what’s your favorite beer, and why? Please get specific with the details – the aroma, taste, after taste……Do you like specific beers after you run, as opposed to other times, like during dinner?

Lately I’ve been getting into the slight citrus-y thing in the Sculpin Grapefruit IPA, or the other night someone brought a Firestone “Easy Jack IPA” to our Thursday night run. That’s the best part of beer drinking for runners, it’s social. We used to have a Thursday night rule that whatever we tasted had to be from a can, but that sort of fell by the wayside. Not we at least try to pour it into those sneaky red cups. But bottom line I’m a hoppy IPA guy, so my desert island brand would have to be Lagunitas, so much great variety.


You’re currently the Empire Runners President.  What do you find is the most satisfying part of this experience?

I hadn’t really planned to be president, so was a bit surprised that evening in December when the new Board got together and I was selected.

There is a vast storehouse of institutional memory in this club, people who have been making it happen for a long time behind the scenes. I’ve only been around for 12 of the 40 years, so a lot has happened that takes some time to absorb. I think if the club was to be run like a business, which I am NOT advocating, things would be done differently for efficiency, but hey- we’re all volunteers here. There’s a certain quirkiness that has served us well, and we don’t need to take it too seriously if it’s working.

I am surprised at how much  junk email I get weekly from companies selling shirts, medals, timing systems and racing schwag.


 How has your running “experience” changed over the decades, like when you turned, 40, 50, and 60? Has your mental experience of running stayed the same or changed?

I didn’t start running seriously until I was 48, so I have had a lot of catching up to do in terms of training and racing. On the positive side, I don’t have any college age PRs to lament never again achieving.  I just turned 60, so I’m excited about a new time slot for the XC season.

Of all of your “destination” races, what’s been your favorite race and why?

I have to say that the race I most look forward to (heresy for the ER president to say) is the Dipsea. The energy, grueling course and crazy finish make for an unbelievable experience. The fact that very few people win it consecutive years proves that it’s a wide-open race with good handicapped starts.


In the Empire club, we have had a massive increase in the number of kids participating in races and track meets – what’s your take on the club’s changing demographics?

Getting kids involved in running has always been the focus in my volunteer efforts with Empire Runners. As co-director of the Summer Track series, I’m heartened to see the number of kids, especially in the 8-18 range that we’re getting out. We’ve had some press coverage this year that gave us a big boost, and it’s really become a fun summer thing that families can do together. I’ve also been co-chair of the Student Grant fund for several years, and I’m encouraged by the member support for these high school kids going off to college. The teachers’ recommendations and personal statements from these students are truly heart-warming in how they explain the effect that running has on their lives. Most of them may never even settle in Sonoma county as adults or run another ER race, but I believe that running can set them on the right path for a healthy life. The support for the high school running programs in exchange for their helping out at our races has been going on long before my time, but I think it’s a real win-win arrangement.

2015 Loop de Loop, March 29, Empire Runners Club

We know that you’ve experienced some injuries, and have had some time off, but you have come back and continued to run. What advice to you have for older runners about working through injuries and continuing to run? (we are looking for some pearls of wisdom from our fearless leader here)

Core strength. In early 2014 I took a 3-week trip to Cuba and Mexico, during which time I made the serious blunder of sitting on busses and planes and not running or doing any other exercise. When I came back and tried to resume my normal routine, I found that my hips were seriously out of alignment. Several rounds of doctor visits weren’t helping, but at the suggestion of trainer extraordinaire Shelli Main I tried TRX. A patented system developed by the US military for soldiers to stay fit in remote outposts in Afghanistan, it employs a set of adjustable straps that work on body weight resistance for hundreds of exercises. After a year of group classes, instructor Nan Hall calls me her “miracle case” for the improvement I’ve made concentrating on core strength.

I’m back now running with new resolve, incorporating stretching and core training in my weekly routine.


Member Profile: Kate Papadopoulos

Lately Empire Runner Kate Papadopoulos has been kicking ass on the trails,  winning the Annandel Half Marathon,  and most recently running an excellent first Dipsea. In this interview with Kate we try to understand why she gets so psyched about trail running. 

Question: Lately it seems that you have really found your stride in trail races, including winning the Annandel Half Marathon. What is it about trail races that you enjoy most?

The biggest attraction is being in nature! I also prefer small groups over large crowds. It is through Empire Runner races that I began loving and gaining confidence about racing on trails. I was hooked on running the Illsanjo classic after the first time I ran it.

About the Annadel Half this year…everything seemed to come together. Participating in Tuesday track workouts and joining a trail running group led by Kenny Brown really helped. With the trail group, not only did we travel to challenging and beautiful locations, but I also got to train with friends who were about my pace.

July15KateP_Ilsanjo 10M Female

When the majority of people run on trails, they slow down because of the obstacles – rocks, water, uneven terrain, etc. They give your mind an excuse to slow down. The best trail runners gain energy and increase speed when obstacles are encountered, which is a hallmark of great cross-country runners.  What do you mentally experience when you encounter challenges on the trail?

It took me awhile to get used to trail running but now I’m hooked. When jogging on easy days I like to relax, not think about my pace, and enjoy the scenery. During races, however, it is true that you have to stay focused on every step both to keep up the pace and to keep from tripping.

You also mentioned cross-country, which I started last season. The shorter distances are challenging for me and honestly I’m more comfortable in races between 10k and half marathons. But I loved the camaraderie and group energy and look forward to the next season.

USATF PA XC Finals at Golden Gate Park, Nov 16 2014. To see all the photos, go to the Empire Shutterfly page,
USATF PA XC Finals at Golden Gate Park, Nov 16 2014. To see all the photos, go to the Empire Shutterfly page,

What was the most challenging part of the Dipsea race that you ran recently?

The Dipsea’s successive stairs and hills were never-ending. I’ve rarely walked more than a few steps during a race but during the Dipsea I mixed walking with jogging on the multiple flights of stairs and the steepest inclines. It felt wrong to walk during a race! But there was a tipping point where If I took the hills too hard, I would not have had the energy to speed up on the descents. As it turned out, it was often difficult to gain speed going down as well due to sharp turns, steep but legal shortcuts, and shrubs laden with poison oak.

Kate Papadopoulos running to the finish line at the Dipsea race, 2015. Photo by Bev Zanetti
Kate Papadopoulos running to the finish line at the Dipsea race, 2015. Photo by Bev Zanetti

How did you do, and where on the trail do you think you can improve next year?

I felt good about the race. It was an accomplishment just getting in. I also reached my goal of getting in next year’s Invitational. Frank Cuneo, Paul Berg, Brad Zanetti, Stephen Agar and I did a practice run on the course prior to the race day which was helpful. Food and drinks after at Stinson beach helped us recover.

With such a challenging course and numerous headstarts based on gender and age, I finished without any sense of how I did other then I was exhausted. In the open runner section (which is like the second large heat of the race) I ended up 17th overall and the 4th female, which was a huge surprise. I will be back next year and I think more hill work and faster runners around me in the invitational section will hopefully help me improve my time.

In any of your trail races, any wipeouts? Bloody knees? Poison oak? Rattlesnake scares?

No big falls yet, thankfully. When not racing I run pretty conservatively. Poison Oak? Of course. I got my worst case after taking “shortcuts” during the Dipsea training run. After the actual race, scattered bumps came back as a reminder. I’m now armed with strong steroid cream for the next exposure. Rattlesnakes? I’ve seen small ones in Annadel, but never felt threatened. Aggressive mountain bikers are probably a larger risk!

Kate Papadopoulos running to the finish line at the Dipsea race, 2015.


In comparison, what are your thoughts about road races? Equally enjoyable?  What’s your most memorable road race?

I enjoy trails more than the road but I’m looking for a flat half marathon to do to see what my time would be like. I’m signed up for the CloCow half marathon in September but it is full of hills. I have not run too many road races but one that sticks in my mind is the Kaiser Half marathon 2014. It was my 3rd half marathon after Annadel and CloCow. It was cold and pouring rain. I carpooled with Steve Cryer, you may know him—he is one of our shyest Empire Runners :). It was such a gigantic race that I lost him at the start and it took awhile to find him at the finish. In the final race results,however, we had serendipitously finished 2 seconds apart. It was a lesson in chip timing that our places were 430th and 431st but I only saw him at the turn around.


Have you always been good racing on trails, or is this a recent awareness? Did you run cross country at your high school in Lincoln City, Oregon? Way back then, did you think you would still be running now?

A recent awareness for sure. It took a few people pointing it out to me to realize that this was a strength. I ran some track and half a season of cross country in high school. I loved running enough to the point that I would happily run during Oregon Coast rainstorms but I was a bit more competitive in other sports, mainly basketball and volleyball. I was also plagued with knee pain that kept me out of sports part of my Junior and Senior year.

Did you run in college? If so, how did you do?

Unless running late to class counts, I did not run in college. I tried to start running again a few times for the exercise but had recurrent knee pain that for some reason or another, has not come back since I have started running again over the past 3-4 years. I feel so fortunate.

2015 Loop de Loop, March 29, Empire Runners Club
2015 Loop de Loop, March 29, Empire Runners Club

You’re working as an EHS nurse practitioner at Sutter. Are there any connections between work and running? Does running reduce stress, or give you more energy at work?

I take care of Sutter employees with work related injuries and manage other healthcare setting required vaccine and testing needs. The majority of work related injuries in this population are musculoskeletal and I love learning about human anatomy, physiology, and rehabilitation which is one connection to sports and running. The biggest connection between my work and running is geographical. I work on Summerfield Road…just a few strides from Parktrail! After work I can easily get in runs in the park or Tuesday/Thursday workouts. Running definitely helps me manage stress and has become a part of my social life.

What’s your next race?

I’m signed up for the Clo-Cow Half in September and will sign up for some local cross country races.



You have a reputation as a very “durable” runner, getting very few injuries and running consistently. But rumor has it you got injured walking to work. How is that possible? 

>I normally commute to work by bicycle, and have done so for nearly 30 years. But my bicycle frame broke in October 2014. So while waiting for my new bike from the Trek factory, I started taking the bus to work. But this included walking up Fountaingrove Parkway to Keysight. Plus, when I took the bus to work, I nearly always walked home, which is 5 miles. Also, I started standing at work instead of sitting (I definitely recommend this if you have a desk job.) So suddenly I was spending a lot more time on my feet than I had been, and plantar fasciitis showed up in one foot. After the Pacific Association championship race in November, I could barely walk. Even five months later, it isn’t completely gone.  May15Howard4

What is the ratio between riding your bike and running? Do you think biking up Fountain Grove Parkway to Keysight improves your running? 

>I don’t know what the ratio is, but probably pretty close to 1:1 in terms of time. My round trip commute is probably 45-50 minutes, and I usually run less than this each day. I think biking does improve my running. It is a good source of background fitness, and there is 0 pounding stress. I think the biking helps your running more for longer races. For shorter races (a mile or less), the intensity from bicycling may be a little too low to provide as much benefit. Of course there is nothing preventing me from trying to ride up Fountaingrove as fast as I can, to get my heart rate up closer to what it is during a race. I think the bicycling improves my up-hill running. Also, Chris Cole, a very talented runner, whom I really respect, thinks that as you get older bicycle training transfers over better to your running. This is because you run slower as you age, so the lower-intensity bicycle training transfers over better to your lower-intensity running.

I didn’t start out intentionally bicycling to train for running. I just knew that bicycling would be (and is) a great way to commute – I can still fit into the same suit I bought in 1984, I save maybe $3000 a year by not owning a car for commuting, it’s great for the environment, and it relieves stress and is fun.

In 2011 you were part of the Senior Men’s XC team that went to the National Championships in Seattle, Washington. Given the fact that it was such an exceptional team, what was the energy of the team members before the race? Tell us about the trip. 

>We had a great time. Don Stewart, Ty Strange, and I had just turned 50, and we had Jonathan Hayden, 54, and Brad Zanetti, 57, as our top 5. Paul Berg, John Harmon, and Larry Meredith also came and competed well. It was great travelling as a group. We knew we were facing the best runners in the country, and I think we were just thinking, “We have nothing to lose. Let’s go out and give it our best shot.” We finished 7th of 17 teams, if I remember correctly. Not bad for the relatively small population that the Empire Runners draw from. I really enjoyed the race, because there were lots of people in it and watching, all along the course. It was very high energy, and I would definitely do it again. Throughout the race, I had people right in front of me or right behind me, so it was easy to maintain a faster pace than I would in a more typical cross country race. The only bad thing about it was that it was 10k, which is a little long for me.

Sometimes they have the national championship race in some cold location like Spokane. Being a wimpy Californian who grew up in Novato, I’m spoiled. I’m always thinking: why go to Kentucky or Pennsylvania in December when we have such mild weather here in California?

Kenwood 10K July 4th, 2014

 I believe you are a Senior Applications Engineer at Keysight Technologies in Santa Rosa. Do you experience much stress at work and does running help you deal with the challenges of working?

>Yes, I am an applications engineer at Keysight. I have worked at Fountaingrove since 1985, except for a year in Japan. I would not say that my job is very stressful. Occasionally I have deadlines I have to meet, but my boss pretty much lets me decide what to work on and how much time to spend on each task. However, running, bicycling, lifting weights, the elliptical, walking, hiking, all forms of exercise reduce stress and get your mind off things. Plus it makes it easier to sleep at night. Exercise is without a doubt the best medicine.

 You’re known as a “middle distance” man and a cross country runner, which seems entirely different. What is it about the 800 meters that you actually like? What did you run in high school / college, and what have you run as a master? 

>I started out in high school as a 440 runner (50.0 as a junior) and moved to the 880 as a senior (1:55.9). I ran cross country in high school just as training for track season. I was pretty fast in the shorter distances, but there were plenty of people faster, which is why I ended up running the 880/800. I like the 880/800 because I was relatively good at it. I continued running the 800 (1:53.6) at UC Berkeley, but was never good enough to make their travelling team. But certainly the training did and does require a lot of speedwork, which is more stressful than going out and running 5 miles, for example.

In 2011, when the Master’s World Championships were in Sacramento, and I had just turned 50, I entered the 800. I made the semi-finals, but finished 16th in 2:12.22. I needed to run about 2:10 to make the final. I think if I had run more races (I only ran 2 before the meet), I might have done better. I think it is somewhat harder to train as a master athlete than as a college or high school runner, because you are probably working full time, may have a family, and may have very little time to train. Plus you frequently have to run on your own without a coach.

It is well known and accepted that people have different body types meaning they will be better suited to certain distances or types of races than others. However, I’m convinced that you can train for specific races or distances, and that if you know your ability and pace yourself correctly, you can tolerate most races.


How do you compare the “mentality” of a track race versus cross country? How do you adjust your approach? 

>In track races, my goal is almost always to run faster than a particular time. So I want my splits and I want accurate timing results. In cross country races, I’m looking at which competitors are near me, and I’m thinking about how I’ve done against them in previous races. “Tom beat me last race. I’m going to see if I can stay closer to him today and beat him (or at least close the gap.)” My cross country strategy is to be a little conservative in the first half of the race, and then try to be more reckless and aggressive as I get closer to the finish line. I like that they are longer than track races. You have to think a little more and focus longer. I’m an assistant referee for high school soccer. This requires intense concentration, which I think transfers over to my racing. “You can do this. Stay focused. Stay relaxed. You can catch this guy. Let’s push this hill. Just a mile to go. Now just half a mile… OK, someone has caught me, but I’m going to be back, with a vengeance in the final sprint…”

I now find cross country races way more appealing than track races. This is because no matter what you do, past about 35, you are going to keep getting slower. I really enjoy the competition of cross country, the series of races the Pacific Association puts on. Everyone I’m racing against is getting slower from year to year, so I’m sure we’re mostly thinking about competing against each other. Also, I think that longer, slower races (relative to track ones) are easier on your body as you get older.

 Now some important questions. What is your favorite pre cross country race food? What do you consume and how far in advance? What do you recommend? 

>I used to think that racing on an empty stomach was a good thing. Now I’m convinced that eating something 2- 2.5 hours before the race leads to much better results. I try to eat a bowl of oatmeal and half a banana about 2-2.5 hours before a race. It isn’t too much, but I don’t start the race feeling hungry, which would be bad. I think people need to experiment and figure out what works for them. Taking energy gels even closer to the start would probably be good, too.

 And what’s your post race reward? A rueben sandwich? Chocolate ice cream with Oreo crumbles? Be honest. 

>Well, I don’t eat meat anymore, except for fish, and I don’t eat any dairy, either. A Cliff bar or a bowl of granola, or some fruit would be ideal.

I’m curious to hear what other runners do to prepare for races. I think there is a lot of “tribal knowledge” in our club.

MEMBER PROFILE: Karen Frindell Teuscher

I notice on your staff page on the Santa Rosa Junior College website it says your position is Chemistry Instructor & Department Chair, but your description is “Runner, singer and banjo player for The Orchid Killers.” Based on your statement it seems that your balancing your life. How does running contribute to this balance?

Running keeps me sane.   It gets me outside and allows me to clear my head.  When I am running a lot, it makes me feel more like myself, so I can get through all of the other things I want to do.

Does running free your mind, or do you end up thinking about your classes and chemistry problems during your runs? 

I would say first, running allows me to zone out. Eventually I do come around to problem solving, but only after I’ve been out for a while.  Every once in a while, I write a song while running.


What are your other reflections on running and work?

In teaching chemistry, running makes for some good analogies and examples.  I teach a little bit of biochemistry, and I can offer first hand examples of glycogen depletion and hydrolysis of ATP. Running also helps teach the metric system.  I would say runners (and swimmers) have an easier time converting between yards and meters.

Is the concentration required to solve chemistry problems similar to the concentration to playing the banjo? Similar or different?

At first I wanted to say it’s different, but then I realized the two have something in common.  Chemistry is all about patterns.  The better someone is at pattern recognition, the better they are at solving chemistry problems.  Music is full of patterns, and playing the banjo (or any instrument really)  is all about combining different figures together to make a pattern.  Just like combining chemical substances to make something new.


You’re also a swimmer for the Santa Rosa Masters – how do you manage your time between school, the band, running, and swimming? And also being the Assistant XC coach at Montgomery High? 

Work-life balance is very important to me, and I do enjoy a lot of extra-curricular activities. To answer your question – I just fit things in where I can. Running, swimming, and playing the banjo are my favorite things to do (in addition to teaching), and so I just fill up the spaces in my days with those activities.  Coaching is a great way to run and teach at the same time, and there’s nothing like getting outside on a crisp afternoon in Fall, even if I have to go back to work afterwards.

The majority of Empire Runners do not swim competitively. Do you get the same sense of accomplishment from swimming as you do from running in races? 

I love swimming and being in water. Truthfully, though, I am better at running, so I tend to gravitate toward running a little more.  But I have been swimming with the Santa Rosa Masters and Coach Hermine Terhorst for 12 years, and I wouldn’t want to give it up.  It’s great cross training, and Hermine’s philosophy involves a lot of core strength and alignment, which both make a huge difference in swimming and running.

What is your running philosophy?

I’m not sure if I have ever written down or explicitly thought about my running philosophy.  I would say it’s something like “run with a smile on your face;” although, after looking at pictures of myself running, I realize that smile might sometimes be in my mind. Also, for me, running is a great way to see the world.  Compared to walking and hiking you can see more in a shorter amount of time, and feel like you’re flying while you do it.

Backyard chickens – really?

I love having chickens!  They make great pets, they eat all of your weeds and garden pests, and they turn them into delicious eggs.  Chickens are also very entertaining.  Sometimes we just go outside in the late afternoon and watch them scratch around.

What’s your favorite Bikram Yoga pose?

Triangle, I think.  It’s one of the hard ones, but it is great for stretching out tight hips.