Category Archives: NEWS

Miscellaneous Empire Runners news!

Have Fun while Rebuilding Our Parks with Tahoe Ragnar Relay

“So much was lost in these devastating fires, and yet the sense of community and camaraderie in Sonoma County has never been stronger. We’ve come together to form an alliance, and challenge ourselves to raise money to help rebuild our local parks – the parks that bring our community together and provide respite from this stressful and painful experience. We will be running in Tahoe this summer to raise funds for the parks and hope that other runners coming to Ragnar Trail Tahoe this year will be inspired to help us with our mission to raise at least $40,000 for the parks restoration effort. Join us to help our community remain #SonomaStrong.”  -Justin Borton

It all started with Taylor Mountain Tuesdays. 3 years ago, Justin Borton and his small cohort of die-hard Sonoma County trail runners began meeting at 6:30 sharp every Tuesday morning to tackle the 1300-foot behemoth at the heart of Taylor Mountain Regional Park. Their goal is to make it up to the summit and back down before most Sonoma County residents have had breakfast, rain or shine.

The brutal climb hasn’t grown much over the years, but Borton’s network of Sonoma County trail runners certainly has. Ranging from weekend warriors to elite athletes, this group has formed the base of the #SonomaStrong Parks Restoration Challenge.

Berg04ShilohCreated in the wake of the most devastating wildfires in California history, the goal of the #SonomaStrong Parks Restoration Challenge is to raise at least $40,000 to directly benefit the Sonoma County Parks. Borton hopes to build 10 relay teams, comprised of 75+ runners, to represent Sonoma County at Ragnar Tahoe this year, with proceeds being donated directly to Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation Wildfire Restoration Fund.

Taking place on July 20-21 at Royal Gorge, this event offers a different format than other relays. Instead of waiting your turn to run along the highway in a cramped van, this relay is centered around a base camp area with 3 routes originating and ending in the camp. Each of 8 team members runs the 3 loops consecutively over approximately 24 hours. The comfort and camaraderie of all the teams being in the same location will create a convivial yet competitive atmosphere. Details of the relay are at

Empire Runners is teaming up with #SonomaStrong Parks Restoration Challenge to increase awareness of the strength of our running community and raise money for the parks. Ragnar has agreed to turn over a large portion of entry fees to the cause, plus Borton and his crew are raising  donations and schwag from sponsors. We plan to have a large camp area specifically for our Sonoma county group, plus lots of fun during and after the running. Some of the local health clubs and running companies are also fielding teams, so this is shaping up to be the event not to miss.


Here’s the link to sign up       Register here instead of at the Ragnar site, and please make a note that you are registering to be on a #SonomaStrong Empire Runners Team. We need all speeds and abilities, we will assign teams as the date draws near. If you want to participate as a non-runner, as a crew helper or support staff, sign up as well and we’ll have a group meeting later.

(All photos courtesy of Sonoma County Regional Parks staff)

Michael McGuire: Santa Rosa Strong

Editor’s Note: Empire Runner’s member Michael McGuire’s positive attitude about life “after the fire” has become an inspiration to others. 

Quite early one morning . . . A rap on our door began an adventure that will play out over the next couple of years. A neighbor, living a half mile from our house, banged on our door about 2:00 A.M. to say a serious fire was moving toward our homes. Quickly picking up the dog and very few items we drove both cars to Safeway on Mendocino Avenue. There were several people milling around in the lot and the market had brought out a pallet of water for free distribution. Sandi and I determined we had time to return home. So taking one car and the dog we drove back to Aaron Drive in the Hidden Valley neighborhood. We probably stayed 15 minutes and made a couple of quick trips to the car – Sandi with her sewing machine and some clothing; me with my camera, hard drives, Mac Mini, some cables and two arm loads of clothes. We probably had more time, but never being in this situation before, we left sooner than necessary. Looking for important items under the glow of cell phone flashlights likely caused us to miss important belongings – Sandi’s many beautiful quilts, family treasures and most jewelry. I was sure, though, we would return to a house and neighborhood unscathed. Anything else was too improbable.

Our son and his family live in the Burbank Gardens Historical District and we let ourselves into his house about 3:00 A.M. He was quite surprised to see us. We shared what little information we had and I set out across town to see what I could learn. I walked and hitch hiked to the foot of Aaron Drive. Within a hundred yards of the street, there looked to be no fire destruction, although there was smoke (therefore fire?). I witnessed the full involvement by fire of houses at the bottom of the street and knew our home was also gone. After taking a couple of photos, a neighbor and I were able to hitch another ride to our respective safe zones. We got to ride in the back of a pickup truck with no fear of anyone stopping us. At this point it was about 7:30. I have no recollection of the rest of the day for us, but our daughter and her family were evacuated from their home near Fulton Road. Cell phones proved to be indispensable in the first two weeks of the fire.

As the weeks went on I tried to keep a diary of events. That proved very difficult for me. So many things were happening and so many conversations occurred that days became fractured. By the end of any day I was exhausted and could barely recall what had transpired. There were too many rumors and too few facts. Fortunately, our son secured housing for us the next day and we moved into a furnished cottage on the edge of downtown. Despite the problems and challenges of the fire loss, living downtown is proving to be terrific – three breweries, two bookstores, uncountable restaurants, a movie theater, library, police and fire department and wonderful shops within three blocks! And the new town square.

Photo by Paul Berg

Despite the confusion and magnitude of the fires what happened next was impossible to foretell – the constant out-flowing of kindness, generosity, skilled helpfulness, professional competence and charity. The banners around town, the stories in the newspapers and on the radio, the witnessing and receipt of ‘good deeds’ being done will forever mark this community as one that willingly and seemingly easily demonstrates a strength of character rare in the world today.

Daily routines are still difficult to maintain. Too many small tasks that interrupt the need for more concentrated thinking and doing. There is still a bubble of curiosity and needing to share adventures and misadventures. Stories are becoming more compact with their repeated telling, but appointments must still be met, deadlines are still in force and the day still has a finite number of hours and minutes.

By the end of the days, weeks, months and years to come, I am confident we will be made whole with the benefit of new and strengthened friendships. SANTA ROSA STRONG and similar mottos are true in ways we never imagined.

Resolutions 2018 –

Interesting question. I am dogged by what I think is a slow recovery to my cancer operation in August and radiation treatment in September and October. Add to that recovery from the fire and planning for a new home in a bit of an uncertain future adds to an ‘iffy’ resolution: to get back to a state of health and confidence that allows me to see my life as still expanding. A better resolution is to continue to see the positive side of events over which we have little opportunity to control. We are dealt a hand and should learn to play it in a way that benefits and inspires others.

Emil Shieh: Reflections on 2017

Editor’s Note: Empire Runner’s Club member Emil Shieh reflects on the Santa Rosa Firestorm of 2017 and how it effected his family.  His  posts on Facebook made us cry and laugh at the same time, and reminded us of the importance of a positive attitude and humor during times of crisis. 

Cover Photo courtesy of Emil Shieh. Caption: “I posed like this before when our house was not transparent.”

With the fires, we suffered the loss of our home and belongings, but gained appreciation for the generosity of the community, in coming together to get us back on our feet. We were fortunate to have the police knocking door-to-door to warn us that the fire was coming and that we had to immediately evacuate. Little did we know that it was the last time we would see our house again. We left with ourselves and our pets and not much else. We stayed at a motel on Cleveland Ave, from which we could see the red glow of the fire and hear explosions in the distance, and the next day, even though the area was still blocked off, I headed up to our street in Fountain Grove with my friend who was a fire fighter to check on our homes. He had earlier been up to check his house and found nothing left standing but his concrete steps, and myself, what little hope I had that our house had survived was crushed when I got to our street and saw house after house completely flattened by the flames. There were still small smouldering flames and plenty of smoke around. Everything was flattened, and eerily I could see the back yard from the front yard. Nothing in the rubble looked salvageable except for nails and random bits of pottery. The backyard furniture was still intact, but was the only thing left standing.

After a short trip to target to get some toothbrushes and clothing essentials the next few days were a blur, meeting up with many friends and neighbors who were in the same boat as us. We learned our daughters school, Cardinal Newman HS, had also burned, but had only a few buildings standing. After days of living out of our car, couch surfing, and dealing with FEMA and insurance, the air started clearing out and we were trying to get some normalcy back in our lives. Off for 2 weeks, my daughter started up with a makeshift school at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Windsor. I found a rental house in Healdsburg and got it furnished thanks to our insurance.

Once the air cleared enough, my headache from breathing all the smoke also resolved, and I began itching to exercise from having all the time off, and as a way to de-stress. However even running requires some basic equipment. I had only my clothes I went to sleep in, a few things I had picked up, and fortunately, some workout clothing that I kept in my car. My wife always told me my car sometimes smelled like a locker, because I used it like a locker. Underneath the dog food, and other things I found a shirt, shorts, and the cap I kept in the car. But I had only Crocs, which I wore for several days. I went to Fleet feet and was surprised to see what was there. There were piles of shoes and clothes that had been donated by people, both new and used. I was able to find a pair to fit myself and my daughter. Thanks Rhonda, and also to New Balance and Hoka for the generous donations. I was nearly in tears to find such help. Even socks were much appreciated. But mostly it was great to find people willing to help us out, and to commiserate with, as many other people had found basics donated by so many people. Probably the last thing you want to do after such a disaster was to go shopping but it was a necessity. I found similar generosity at Healdsburg Running Company with donations as well. Thanks Skip! And at Bike Monkey and Echelon, I found some old cycling clothing and clip less pedals, though I did not have a bike yet.

My daughter, Natalie, eventually also began running again and her cross country schedule returned to semi-normalcy. Spring lake and the parts of Annadel still intact were again the sites of her practice. For her meets, the cross country team had seven varsity girls, 3 of whom lost their homes. Those girls had to wear older uniforms that were a different color but at least they were running again. The football team was unable to use the field and had to hold all practices and games away.

I replaced my bike, thanks to Kevin at Echelon, who also gave me some donated shoes. Every thing feels like another step towards normalcy. We have a long way to go, and have still not decided what to do yet. There are new running and biking trails to explore. Our family is still intact, and our home is where we are, not the house we live in. We are so thankful for all our friends and family, and the community, which has been so supportive of all the fire victims. We are grateful to live in a place that has such amazing people and spirit.

Emil (far left) at the 2 Tread Brewing/ Fleet Feet Run in Santa Rosa, Nov 30th, 2017. 


Spirit of the Club

An award to honor Empire Runners’ members who have given exemplary service and dedication to our club and to the running community in general.

At the club meeting on September 22, a proposal was made and approved by the board to create to annual award to honor members whose efforts have enabled the ideals of Empire Runners to grow and prosper over the forty or so years of its existence.   Called The Spirit of the Club it will be earned by members whose volunteer work with the club and beyond has significantly benefited the running community through ongoing encouragement, motivation and demonstration of skills and behavior.

Purpose: To honor Empire Runners Club members for significant contributions to Empire Runners of Sonoma County

and acknowledge long-time service to sports and athletics in Sonoma County.


  • active membership in Empire Runners for 10 years or more. Years of membership need not be consecutive.
  • significant contributions to the successes of the Empire Runners Club
  • significant contributions to the furtherance of youth or adult athletics through coaching or other activities that engage others in positive physical activities

There is no age limit to selection for the Spirit of the Club Award

All club members are potentially eligible for the selection of the award. Any club member may nominate any other club member.

Awards will be made annually at the club party

Prospective recipients must be nominated by another club member

Nominators are responsible for collecting information relevant to the prospective inductees’ consideration for the Award and forwarding it to the selection committee

Photos and news articles featuring the nominee will be appreciated


Nominations must be received by November 1 for consideration for the next year’s selections

Recipients will receive a commemorative plaque and a book containing the biographies and contributions of all Spirit of the Club Award members

A maximum of three Spirit of the Club Awards will be given each year

A Spirit of the Club committee will review all applications and will select the honorees

Suggested questions for Spirit of the Club nominators can ask of nominee: (Don’t forget to write the responses. They will be used in the selection process for Spirit of the Club.)

  • What motivated you to join Empire Runners and about when did you join?
  • What are some things you have done over the years to benefit Empire Runners? Include dates if possible. Include volunteer opportunities and club leadership roles.
  • What are some things you have done over the years to benefit youth and/or adult sports and fitness awareness? Include organizations with which you have been or continue to be affiliated with (formally or informally). Include volunteer opportunities and organization leadership roles. Include dates if possible.
  • What has inspired you over the years to continue providing help or guidance to others in the areas of youth and/or adult fitness and wellness?
  • In what ways do you believe the needs of youth or adults to participate in sports and/or fitness and wellness activities have changed over the years of your involvement?
  • What suggestions can you offer to encourage others to become involved in volunteer and/or leadership roles in activities that benefit youth and/or adults?


2016 Empire Runner Scholarships


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Unlikely Partnership, by Melody Karpinski

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

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

Just the little things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My split sheet, and my heart, are full.

Mudroom Backpacks, by Doug Murdoch

IFThe perennial problem for runners and athletes is simply the question, “What do I do with my shoes?”

You know the problem…you tie them together and sling them on your backpack and they are dangling around, or they are dirty so you don’t want to put them inside of anything…let’s face it, shoes are a pain in the ass to travel with sometimes.

Local Sonoma County entrepreneur and designer David Deioma has recognized this significant problem and created a new company called Mudroom. The backpack I tested is called the Small Quartible 18L.


Overall, this is an excellent travel backpack that provides a much needed solution for carrying your shoes. The 6” depth makes it easy to put under the seat of an airplane, or even in the small overhead of commuter jets, like CRJ’s. If I ever fly to a race, this would be the bag I take on the plane with all my critical stuff. The reason is that I want to have everything with me for my race, so even if my checked luggage is lost, I still have just what I need to get by. And it would easily hold your toiletries and other essential items.

Running Shoes


Each side of the backpack has zippers that open to hold running shoes, up to size 18 I am told. They fit in easily, and there is a stretch pocket on the inside that I was able to put two pair of socks or a pair of running shorts. And the top of the pocket is ventilated with mesh.

As a runner, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this feature. Being able to separate and carry my shoes with my other stuff is really awesome. And actually you can access the shoe pockets from the inside as well.

Laptop and ipad


I’ve never seen a backpack designed before that can hold running shoes, a full size laptop, and an ipad. David did a great job organizing this backpack and making it work.

The laptop can be put into the slot from the inside, but a really fantastic feature is the side zippered access to the laptop. The reason is that there are times when you need to cram your backpack full of stuff, and if you try to get it out from the inside, it’s difficult. With the side access, you can immediately get to it.

There is also an ipad pocket but this can also be used for other items like notebooks, books, etc.

Inside the Backpack


I was able to fully load this backpack on the inside with:

  • Running shirt
  • Running glasses and case
  • Jacket
  • Bottle of Whiskey
  • Mt. Tam map
  • Sonoma Coast map
  • Notebook
  • San Francisco map
  • Book: How Bad Do You Want It?  By Matt Fitzgerald
  • Bose ear buds
  • ipad
  • 13″ Mac Book Pro

Honestly I could have put a lot my stuff in the backpack but I thought that was a reasonable amount. I don’t normally drink whiskey, but for this product review, I thought I’d get a little wild. The wide front zippered opening makes it easy to access and organize your stuff.

Front Organizer Pocket


I appreciated how deep and side this pocket is, because I easily put my large cell phone in the front, passport, pens, as well as a USB, and phone cable.

Lower Front Zippered Pocket


This pocket was big enough for my keys, my running watch, and the charger. Since my watch is so important to me, I always like putting it in a separate pocket.



On the back of the backpack is a hole underneath the label that goes to the inside, where you can hang your hydration bladder. You have to make a choice – use a hydration bladder, or carry your laptop. It’s nice to have this feature in case you want to go hiking or biking and you can leave your laptop back at your place.

Side Pockets

The side pockets work for water bottles, energy bars, etc.

Other features include daisy chains on the front to connect carabineers or other stuff, reflective tape, an adjustable chest strap, and padded shoulder straps.

Kudos to David Deioma for recognizing the problem that runners and athletes have and coming up with a great backpack solution.

You can go see the backpacks in person at Fleet Feet Sports in Santa Rosa.

You can read about David’s company here:


I took steroids – by Catherine DuBay

I watched the Olympic Marathon Trials and was so impressed by Galen Rupp’s performance and then was so deflated listening to Kara Goucher’s claim that his success is due to Performance Enhancing Drugs. This accusation led me to the BBC special on this subject-focusing on Alberto Salazar and his Oregon Project and their purported use of PED’s. The whole thing makes me sad. Sad for the athletes, sad for the amateurs and sad for the sport of long distance running.

I am not a professional athlete. Far from it. I have never had a sponsor or paid a coach. Sure I earned a few bucks in the PA cross country series and one time won a race sponsored by Chevy’s and got free Chevy’s meals for a year. But even as an amateur I can understand how a professional might be tempted to partake in PED’s. Running is very hard. Training day in and day out, often twice a day, can be grueling. To keep this up over a long training cycle likely will result in injury, burnout or both. If a trusted coach suggests a pill or injection to aid your recovery and boost your workouts without compromising your promise to stay clean, I think we would all be tempted.

I was on steroids before and can attest to their power. I am going to sound like Maria Sharapova, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong and a host of other professional athletes, when I tell you that I was “prescribed these drugs for a medical condition and had no idea that they were banned”. The difference is that unlike these athletes, I am not a professional and my steroids were NOT for athletic performance but were given for anti-nausea prior to chemotherapy infusions. And man, were they powerful! I took the drugs the 3 days leading up to my infusion and I would get so fired up (some may say wound up) these 3 days that despite the ill effects of chemo I was able to run, swim and/or cycle and feel pretty darn good.

So yes, I can understand how professional athletes who are relying on speedy recoveries from increasing mileage or demanding workouts would be drawn to the power of these drugs. But it makes me so sad to know our sport is tainted by cheaters. I wanted to believe that running was so pure and required such discipline that those capable of this could not stoop so low. I should have known from professional cycling that no sport was immune.

I would like to believe that the cheaters are the exception. Please pro’s, help me believe this. As we enter this Olympic season I want to watch you all glide around the track and through the streets of Rio with the confidence that you are clean and have earned your way to Rio through hard work, smart coaching and sacrifices alone. I will cheer for you and celebrate with you and sadly now have to question you.

Run on my friends.

Come Up And Play With Us!

Editor’s note: It seems like every week brings a new race to Sonoma county, and training groups are sprouting everywhere, from Empire Runners and all the local running stores. Some are informal meet-ups, others are expos with demos from shoe vendors, some are paid groups targeting a specific type of running with a goal race to work towards. This all bodes well for our local, vibrant community.

In the first installment of an ongoing series, we are highlighting some of the options from Healdsburg Running Company. In coming months we’ll hear from other running stores about their training offerings, plus an expanded roster of fun events from Empire Runners.

Come Up And Play With Us!: 1970’s Empire Runners Values Are Healdsburg Running Company’s Founding Principles

A number of new running shops are turning back the clock and using the guiding principles that stem from running clubs and shops from the 1970’s. From Frank Shorter’s win in the Olympics, to women starting to run, to trail running, and other events that spurred on the start of Empire Runners club still holds true for specialty running stores and running clubs today.

40 years later, the resurgence of running is a re-creation of some of the same values that Empire was founded on. At Healdsburg Running Company (HRC) we call these values the 4 C’s: Community Building, Charity, Commerce Everywhere, and Camps & Tours.

Community Building

One of the oldest practices of community building is creating a welcoming environment and tapping into a common interest like trail running. HRC has community runs every night, but the shop focuses on three weekly runs: “Ladies Night”, “Family Night” and the Saturday “Trail Runs.” All of which start at HRC and end at a favorite winery, brewery, restaurant, yoga studio or community center.

Every week has a different locale or theme. Ladies Night gathers 80+ women to run every Tuesday in a fun and safe environment. Family night of over 100 runners focuses on the kids and dogs joining the run and has themes like “running for gelato” while ending at a family-friendly bar or restaurant. HRC Trail Runs center on amazing places and parks – like Lake Sonoma, Armstrong Woods, Riverfront Park, or on private trails in the vineyards – with beer and food to follow at a community breakfast spot. To keep the runs open to all paces and types of runners, there is as much focus on the food and drink as much as the pace!


In order to remain authentic and keeping with 1970’s running roots that started Empire Runners, charity work is needed to reaffirm and provide a sense of community. This also creates social capital to capture some more common interests beyond the running activity itself like changing lives. In a year of hosting film screenings, fun-runs, and participating in numerous fundraising events, HRC has raised nearly $14,000 for a few specific charities that club runners chose. This has included Wear Blue for Fallen Soldiers, Girls On The Run, Vineyard Workers Scholarships and Russian RiverKeeper, along with many local fundraisers for kids track teams and events.

Commerce Everywhere

 Similar to many running clubs, retail activity is not the sole focused at the retail store or club itself. Having a running lounge and meeting spot emphasizes the sense of community and education. Running shoes, apparel and nutrition are, of course, sold, but the focus is bringing the running store or elements of it out to all the events we are sponsoring, hosting or running. In a 24/7 online world, all new running stores sell in a multi-channel environment. Running store products today are sold online as well as at alternative partner retail locations like wineries and bars that sell co-branded HRC running gear. The new emphasis is on integration along with education and awareness, not selling. Amazon sells, but specialty local shops educate!

Camp & Tours

Being forward-looking and capitalizing on Ultra running and Sonoma County wine growth, HRC intends to host more “Running Camps.” Healdsburg Running Camps are four multi-day running vacations starting this fall along with two-day versions for the weekend visitors from the Bay Area. As America’s wineiest running store the camp’s focus is on running but also includes four different professionals runners, sponsored athletes, chefs, winemakers, and other local running guides. For example, a camp will include runners from Hoka One One, a chef from the famous Spoonbar Café, the California winemaker of the year, along with our top local Ultra runner who —–all will run with our campers.

We plan to show these running campers the unparalleled beautiful trails, amazing food, award winning wine and charm of our small town with a quaint stay —all centered around the trail run. It is the run, food, wine and stay of your life!




Empire Party in Retrospect! by Shirley Fee

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.The Empire Runners end-of-year Award Party started off with a few refreshing beverages and some socializing. It was fun seeing everyone all cleaned up and shiny.

As we crowded around the raffle prize tables, trying to decide what items we hoped to win, I think a little competition developed over the prizes. Quite a few tickets were purchased and good-humored discussions as to who was going to win the coveted items abounded. We had some great prizes donated by generous businesses and individuals.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.

The dinner, catered by Tagliaferri’s Deli, was (as usual) very good, with a nice variety of dishes served by Empire Runner helpers Val Sell, Lisa Isabeau, and Tori Meredith.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.Member Emily Fisher entertained us by singing and playing guitar. Who knew we had such a great talent in the club! I heard comments like “She sounds like Joan Baez,” and “She reminds me a little of Emmy Lou Harris.”

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.Bill Browne was honored for his long-time service to the club and got a big round of applause plus a standing shout-out from his wife, Jeannie, who, in turn, got her own round of applause and laughter. We should all be so lucky to have such a fan in our corner.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.Peter Kirk showed off his speaking skills as he honored newsletter editors over the past 20 years. His presentation included a slide show that illustrated how the newsletters have evolved over time. It was interesting to see what was and now what is. Larry Meredith, in his usual humorous manner, gave a short cross country talk and kept the mood upbeat.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.Throughout the evening, raffle tickets were pulled and winning numbers announced amid some happy yippees and some disappointed groans.

The Grand Prix awards went by fast, the last tickets were pulled, and it was time to go. It was a lively party and it was great to see new and old members enjoy the evening.

Stay tuned…. I hope to make next year fun and surprising.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.

ERC Annual Party, Feb 6th 2015, at the Finley Center, Santa Rosa, California.