Category Archives: ROAD RACES

Road racing information.

Mike McGuire and the 34th CIM

The 34th California International Marathon was contested on Sunday, December 4th. The weather could not have been more perfect and the pre-race organization was superb. Seemingly all the school buses in the county were enlisted to transport us from Sacramento to Folsom. We could then stay warm and seated in the bus until the start of the race. One could venture out to get some food or drink and witness one of the longest line of porta-potties ever assembled. A lady on our bus who works for a ‘potty’ company said the usual user to potty ratio is 75 to 1. CIM used 35 to 1. Truly a benefit for us runners! Finish line bags were collected at the back of two big vans. As the start came near, there was a crush of runners wanting to get their bags loaded. Some tried to throw the bag over the heads of the volunteers in the truck. A couple of volunteers got conked. The supervisor, stout and burly, shouted that if another bag was thrown he would shut down the trucks! The crowd became instantly cooperative. Good for him!


The start was smooth and efficient with pacers and over-head signs helping runners get in position. Off we went down a slight hill with no pushing or shoving or need to dance around ill-placed runners. Race conditions, I think, were perfect – cool, not cold, no wind and no forecast of dramatic changes. Aid stations were well placed with the first one about three miles out and then becoming more frequent and with greater offerings as the course continued. To those who went to the Healdsburg Running Club trail running movies, I was quite startled to see Jenn Shelton standing on the side of the road at eight miles, sweaty, smiling and looking like everyone’s best friend.

I had run CIM in 2013 under freezing conditions but ended up with a pretty good time and place. This time I was concerned about how aging and spotty training would affect my effort. I had enough training miles but only one run of 16 miles. My 1/2 marathon and 20 mile splits were both better than 2013. Beyond 20 miles, it all became more difficult. My watch displayed a great deal more time needed to pass each mile. I began to list to the right. Spectators had to move back as I veered toward them! With my name printed on my bib, people were calling out to me to do well, euphemistically meaning ‘don’t die!”


As runners flooded past me in the last couple of miles, I had to concentrate to keep one foot going in front of the other and to not trip myself. But the end came in time for a successful finish and actually a pretty good time. I was met by a lovely runner/nurse who chatted with me as she took firm hold on my arm and led me on a walk. “Let’s go to the med tent.” As we walked, a still-listing few feet to the tent, Bob Shor came up to say hello and to confirm the tent visit. Never having been in one before, it was a nice field trip. Two dozen people sitting or lying about with a busy staff offering water, soup, and encouragement. The young lady sitting next to me had just made her Boston Qualifying time and soon left with a warm cup of soup. I stayed about 15 minutes before thanking a volunteer and walking out much more vertical than coming in. By then, general stiffness had begun to take over and Frankenstein’s monster-like I set off to find Sandi.


After several phone calls, we reconnected at the merchandise booth and headed to the drop bag corral. The fenced-in enclosure had thousands of bags lined out in number order. Volunteers would meet runners at a six foot cyclone fence, get our bib number and speedily return with our bag – no runners wandering inside the enclosure bothering those who knew what they were doing. I could replace my silver shawl with dry clothes.


Then we walked among other celebrants with Sandi striding ahead only to look back and see she had left me several steps behind. Everyone seemed in good spirits as the weather conditions stayed pretty moderate for an early December day.


One of the enjoyable parts of CIM is the community support. In many places along the route, live bands and recorded music encourage us along the way. There are also many places where throngs of spectators gather to wish us well. “Go (Dad!, Mom!, Larry!, Linda and Beth!)” “I came to hold a sign” “You Rock!” “Keep going. You paid for it” The support for individual runners was terrific. The sense of celebration and accomplishment was really noticeable and inspiring.


My shoes displayed a remarkable wear pattern. Scuffing at both ends and a near clean slate across the mid-sole. The toe scuffing, I think, was from my shuffle over the last six miles. Traffic buttons on the road had to be avoided as too tall and some painted lines were thicker than others.

Heading home meant a stop in Davis at DeVera’s Tavern for corned beef, potatoes, eggs over easy and a tall glass of pilsner. Very tasty and a needed stop to unkink my legs. Then on to Santa Rosa. The “welcome home” clouds brought a wonderful 24 hours to a close. A few chores taxed my mobility and reinforced for me why I like marathons – you can’t do the event half trained or without realizing that reminders of the effort will follow you for days. Which one will be next? Any suggestions? By the way, my very expensive GPS watch measured CIM as 26.36 miles. I am sure the course has been accurately measured at 26.2. My watch got me to each new mile further and further ahead of the official mark. I can’t get credit in my running log for the extra tenth of a mile!

Carlsbad 5000 – Short Race / Big FUN – by Dale Peterson and Larry Meredith

Brad (Zanetti) and Bobby (Rogers) were just a few feet ahead of me as I took my first steps.  Instantly I knew that something was very wrong.  My legs which had just served me so well down the Carlsbad 5000 course did not seem to be working right.  I felt almost like I had just finished a marathon instead of a 5K.  I knew I should stop but like so many other times in my life, I just couldn’t do it.  The only thing that kept me going was the thought of our hotel, a nice breakfast, the pool, hot-tub and a  micro-brewed IPA.


This was my fourth trip down to Carlsbad to run in the “World’s Fastest 5K” – so-called not due to the course but for the fact that after the several heats of age-division races, the elites put on an exhibition of speed.  They used to run on the same course as everyone else, but lately they do a couple of laps along the coast highway so everyone can get a good and really close look at them.

I was very excited to be here this time around, my training having gone very well leading up to the race.  I ran 23:01 – over twenty-seconds faster than my previous best in 2013.
This year our racing contingent consisted of Brad Zanetti, Larry Meredith, Bryan Porter and myself.  We were supported by Bev Zanetti, Bob Rogers and my sister Sandra.
Bryan Porter has been running the race annually for years now and Brad has done it now I believe seven years running.   This was Larry’s fourth Carlsbad 5000 in as many years.  There is a reason why we all keep coming back – it is FUN.
Here is Larry’s take on the race, Carlsbad and the overall experience:
“This was my fourth Carlsbad 5000 (in four years) and my slowest, by far.Editors Note: [Larry had a terrible cough]  I ran well in only one appearance, 2 years ago, but have not regretted making any of these trips.  Except for my performance in the race, this year was particularly enjoyable for many reasons.  The flight schedule to and from Santa Rosa (what a luxury to fly straight to San Diego from here!) was perfect for a long weekend vacation.  We arrived in San Diego just after noon on a Friday and did not have to return until late Monday evening.  That gave us a day-and-a-half of leisure both before and after the event.  With a seasoned brewery guide Brad and reliable designated driver Bev carrying out their essential duties, the whole weekend seemed like an organized tour.  Dale and I were along for the ride.
The hotel that we keep coming back to is just a half-mile from the beautiful Carlsbad beach, which stretches for more than two miles until it reaches the scenic little coastal town that hosts the races.  The temperature always seems perfect for a 5K, particularly for the masters men’s race that begins at 7 a.m. on Sunday.  While one year there was a stiff breeze to battle against on part of the course, this year was calm.  With the jacked up crowd in the race and along the course, it’s a great place to find out how fast you can run a 5K.  We made the mistake of arriving late to the post-race beer garden after a quick shower and breakfast back at our hotel.  The garden was packed and chaotic, with a line snaking through it to the dispensing stations.  It took 45 minutes but we collected our 2 pints of locally-brewed IPA and sauntered over to hear a very good live band play all of my favorite rock tunes from the ‘80s.  As always, that combination ends with Bryan and me groovin’ to the beat.  I’m tellin’ ya, we need some more ladies on this trip!  We then had to chug our brews so we could get back out on the course to watch some of the fastest 5K runners in the world, men and women, in their separate elite races.  For the second straight year, Bernard Legat set a masters world record for a road 5K.
Checking off local breweries is always on the agenda for Friday, Sunday and Monday.  Yes, we temper our thirst on Saturday in preparation for the race.  Since we had all of Monday on this trip we visited Balboa Park in San Diego, touring the natural history museum there.  A few minutes later we were downtown, eating great burgers at Hodad’s, a place that takes you back in time. And then we walked through the historic Gaslamp Quarter.  We nearly bought tickets to the opening day game of the baseball season but just couldn’t bring ourselves to cough up $80 each to watch the Dodgers destroy the hometown Padres.  So we went to another nearby brewery.  And a deserted Ghirardelli ice cream shop for desert.  As luck would have it, we were able to watch the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game at the airport.  The last-second game winning shot was made just in time for us to catch our flight.  What a weekend!
To those of you who think it’s not worth a weekend trip to run a 5K I say give this one a chance.  You can always take on the “All-Day 5K” which involves running each of the four 5K races held that morning.”
Carlsbad – The proto-typical “beach town” – Carlsbad is both quirky and upscale depending on your mood or pocket-book.  It is located 35 miles north of San Diego International Airport – straight up Interstate 5.
Carlsbad 5000 – the race is held the first Sunday in April in the town of Carlsbad.  Four Heats of the 5K or run the “All Day 20K” and do them all!  Youth 1 Mile races (and now adult too) are run on the previous Saturday.
Beer Garden – crowded but fun with live music for all adult entrants.
Elite Races – there is both an elite men’s and women’s race immediately following the last heat of the morning.
Flights – The best way to go is on Alaska Airlines out of Sonoma Co. to San Diego.
Airfare runs typically between approx. $110 and $250 one way depending on when you book your flight.
Car Rental – Rent a car from any of the many providers in San Diego and make the short drive up the coast to Carlsbad.
Hotel – We always stay in the West Inn about 3 miles south of downtown Carlsbad but within easy walking distance of the beach.  I give the hotel Five out of Five stars.  It is clean, well-appointed has a great breakfast, two restaurants a very nice pool and spa.  Rooms are approx. $165 – $185 per night and well worth it.
Eating – There are literally hundreds if not thousands of great places to eat in Carlsbad and the greater San Diego area.  One of our favorites and a post-race ritual is The Compass in the Carlsbad Village shopping center near downtown Carlsbad.  Great dishes ranging from high-end burgers to Cuban sandwiches, fish tacos and Macaroni and Cheese.  Fantastic beer selection as well.
Breweries – Again, there are hundreds to choose from.  From the huge Stone Brewery in Escondido to tiny Belching Beaver in Vista.  Coronado Brewing Company on Coronado Island and Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego (home of Sculpin IPA) are some favorites.

Run Bangkok, by Doug Murdoch

Jan16_Murdoch06Even though I was in Bangkok, Thailand, for three days for business, I had the opportunity to run in the Standard Chartered 10K, which according to the results had 10,116 people entered. The day before the race, my friend Wiwat took us to the Royal Palace which was truly incredible. Even though we spent two hours there, after we looked at the map, we realized that we had only explored about 20% of the total palace grounds.

Jan16_Murdoch02If you only have time to go to one place in Thailand while visiting Bangkok, this would be the place. Also the National Museum is near by, which is comprised of many buildings filled with antiquities and the history of Thailand. Another great place to go. Training wise I picked a hotel that was very close to Lumphini Park so that I would be able to run in the mornings without having to dodge cars and motorcycles. I was surprised by the hundreds of runners that go there each morning.

Jan16_Murdoch08   Jan16_Murdoch04   Jan16_Murdoch03

Race morning was hot. At 6am the temperature was 88 F on the heat index scale (80.6 F, 95% humidity = 88 F on the heat index scale). After my mile warm up and strides, I was soaked. The most surprising part of the race was that after we were all lined up, with five minutes to the start, a motorcade with sirens showed up…..and a young woman stepped out of the vehicle in running clothes. It turns out she was one of the princesses of Thailand, and she lined up right in front of me, along with her handlers. After the gun went off, I ran around her and her handlers…no time for small talk. After the race, my socks were completely wet….and my feet looked like they had been in a hot-tub for an hour….all shriveled up, soft,  and gross. The next day after the race, I did not feel good – I don’t know if it was a travel bug that I picked up, or the effect of running hard in such a hot environment, or the pollution that was present even in the morning. But I took a day off, felt better, and then flew to my next destination…..Singapore! Great running there along East Coast Park!



Clo-Cow Lovers run the Half Marathon

The 5th annual Clo-Cow Half Marathon & 5K took place on September 13 in Petaluma.  Winning the challenging half marathon was Empire Runner Vojta Ripa, along with Sarah Hallas – who both won the inaugural race in 2011.  Tyler Harwood (also an ERC member) won the 5K, along with Petaluma’s Shannan Salvisberg. (results here)

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

In this exclusive interview, we chat with Clo the Cow to get the scoop!

Q: What is your secret for getting in shape for a half marathon?
A: Staying mootivated is the key!  I have found that moo-ving about the pasture and climbing hills can be udderly exhilarating.

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

Q: Top three reasons to run the Clo-Cow Half Marathon?
A: 1.) Cowbell medals! 2.) Run alongside moo cows 3.) Finisher photos with yours truly

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

Q: What is your favorite post-race recovery drink?

A: Clover chocolate milk, of course!  Did you know that more than 20 studies support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in chocolate milk after a tough workout?  Find out more by going to

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

Q: Do you prefer to run alone or with a group?
A: I love to run with a herd of friends; it makes me want to be a clover-achiever and work out those calves.

The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.
The Clo-Cow Half Marathon and 5K, Petaluma, CA, Sept 13, 2015.

Q: Has running affected your work in any unexpected ways?
A: Being Sonoma County’s best-known spokescow can be demanding work, so running is a great way to reduce stress and keep feeling young.


Q: How was it hugging all of those sweaty runners?
A: It was definitely a Clo’s encounter! But seeing those smiling faces made it all worth it!

Q: Any other races you recommend?
A: You can’t go wrong with the Urban Cow Half Marathon and Davis Moonlight Races.


Why I love the Kenwood Footrace, By Val Sell

(To go directly to the Kenwood Footrace website and to register, click here)  I have dozens of reasons why I like to get involved with the Empire Runner events but I have always had a special attachment to the Kenwood Footrace. Being a veteran runner of the 10K for many years, I never paid much attention to the 3K. Kenwood 3K July 4th, 2014 After all real runners didn’t wimp out and run the short one, right? In 2008 after becoming race director I started paying more attention to the shorter less famed event. While many great local talents have and continue to dominate the 10K, there is no shortage of fast times for the 3K. Kenwood 3K July 4th, 2014 Spectators line the streets for both events, cheering and showing their support. Flags waving and costumes abound during a big race that has managed to hold on to the small town charm, followed by a hometown parade and pancake breakfast. This is truly a special event that should be on everyone’s bucket list at least once. May15Sell7 But beware, once you get involved its addictive! Come join us this year for another fun, family event. Race, walk, or volunteer, young or less young, we want you all. Kenwood 10K July 4th, 2014 New this year for those of you veterans who remember the days of the pint glasses to the top 100. We are giving out stainless steel pint glasses to the top 100 10K finishers so don’t delay, sign up and start your training!


“ What are you doing here? ” The Carlsbad 5000….by John Harmon

For the past several years, I have had to endure incessant and sometimes interminable stories of the famed Carlsbad 5000 by several fellow Empire club members – Bryon Porter, Brad Zanetti, Val Sel. Even the champions of few words, Larry Meredith and Dale Peterson, had something to say about it. Zen gardens, beer, beautiful weather, the Ocean, beer, the Elite runners. Did I mention beer?


I had registered for it last year at their behest, but was unable to go. ER sent its largest contingent in 2014. Stories abound. I feared I had missed something epic, much like the Boston experience when Larry turned 50 and dragged half the county to the shores of the East Coast before it was too late. It was with this in mind that I registered again in December, still not knowing if I would again be thwarted by something else more requisite of my presence. But this year is different, as I have since retired from full time work and have a bit more command of my waking hours – although one would be hard-pressed to observe such. At first, it appeared we might have an equally large contingent. But slowly the proverbial wheels came off. Val came down with injury so debilitating she could not run if she hoped to recover. This took her and her happy band of Dave and McKenna out. Dale passed this year for reasons I now forget. He had run the 25K version of Carlsbad – doing the 5K all day (5X) is a survivor’s trophy. But now he was out. Finally Doug Murdoch dropped for a work conflict (I think) – something I am sympathetic to but no longer threatened by.

Jill and I flew down on the preceding Friday – with Brad, Bev (Zanetti) and Larry. Bryan was already there. Jill and I took in the zoo, then dinner at a little place we found years ago while the others trundled off to Carlsbad to seek out hop-infested lair. Saturday was a low-key day. I got up early and drove to the course start to run a preview. I was glad I did – despite what little good it did. While flat, there are a couple of upgrades which take your legs out – as proved Sunday. We picked up my numbers, visited an aunt and joined all the rest for dinner. After dinner, I dragged (with little resistance) Larry, Brad and Bev to a gelato place. While standing in line, a young gal struck up a conversation with us. She was in town from Boulder for the race. Larry probed further. Come to find out she was quite a talent – wanted to break 17:00 and has trained with Collen De Reuck. We asked her to join us. More on her later.


The next day, I found myself standing at the starting line….in front. To my left was none other than Bernard Lagat. Bernard and I go way back. Bernard went to WSU. I went to WSU. Bernard runs. I run. Similarities fade at this point. We did meet at the Olympic Trials in 2012. Celebrating Kim Conley’s amazing 5000m qualification at a Eugene restaurant, a herd of us from Santa Rosa sat at our table digesting dinner and recounting for the umpteenth time Kim’s call to glory. In walks said Mr. Lagat with his wife and two kids in tow. We all stood to applaud. Several of us went up to him to congratulate him, snap a few gratuitous photos, etc. I mentioned I went to Wazzu. We did a secret handshake, he promised me he’d give me his gold medal and then he ushered himself and family to his table. It was a groupie moment.


So here at Carlsbad you can imagine my surprise at seeing him standing there…with me. “What are you doing here?” he asked me. “Well I’m racing, of course. Why?” I replied. “Well, you’re in the wrong race. This is the Elite race.” This is where I awoke in a drenching sweat. It was 1 am. I could only take this as a bad omen.

On the real Race Day morning at 6 am, Larry, Bryan and I piled in with Brad and headed to a secret parking spot. Jill and Bev took a more leisurely approach and left 15 minutes later. It was cool with little or no wind – perfect weather. I had been training with hopes of pushing 20 minutes. A race two weeks earlier had sobered me, but my training had gone well. Nevertheless, I was resolved not to go out too fast. My warmup went well. Caleb and Daniel Skandera spotted me and wished me well. Daniel was there to run his age group (he ran an amazing 19:25, as is told in a related story). At the starting line, I wished Bryan, Larry and Brad “Good Luck” and found what I thought was a good place. It was 7 am.


This is truly a wonderful experience, wonderful course, beautiful scenery – with the ocean and great weather. Besides what happened, it was awesome.

The first half-mile includes a little upgrade. I felt pushed as we approached the Mile mark – 6:37. Gad! I was already blowing it. As we approach a turn around, I could see Bryan about 20 seconds ahead. I never did see Brad (he was just slightly ahead of Bryan). Larry was a little behind me – still recovering from being out with injury. I leaned into the slight upgrade of the second mile before its slight downhill. I thought I was doing better, but timepieces don’t lie – I was not. A hearty yell from Bev and Jill spurred me on, but to no avail. With less than a mile to go, I faced what Brad had called “this nasty little uphill.” It took my legs out. My goals never made their way out of my mind. The final 300m is slightly downhill. I managed to hold my place, but couldn’t push ahead of anyone in front of me. I finished in 20:53 – well off my goal, but slightly better than my race the two week earlier – wait till next year. Brad finished in 20:28 with Bryan just 2 seconds back. Larry came in behind me.


We went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and have breakfast. Larry and Bryan stayed to save a place at the beer pen (finishers get a finishing medal and two free beers). When we came back for the beers and to see the elite race, whom did we see but the gal we met the night before at the gelato shop. Kristen Johansen had just won the Women’s Open race (not the Elite one). Her time was 17:08. We congratulated her and took some photos. What a treat to have met her the night before and here she was the winner.


When we made our way over to the beer pen, Larry was there as promised. We finagled our way through the lines and finally celebrated our race in style – with an IPA. As we enjoyed the live band and the sun and the beer, who comes by, but Kristen again. OK, she must have been stalking us. But now Larry could talk to her about her race too. We spent the rest of our time waiting for the Elite races near noon by drinking more beer and watching Larry dance to rock’n’roll. I feel a book – There Will Be Beer.


It was time to get serious and find a key spot to watch the Elite Women’s and Men’s races. The others were the experts. Jill and I just tried to keep up. The course we ran is goes out from one street to the ocean-loop once along the ocean promenade-then finishes on another street. The Elite race starts and finishes on the same spot and loops shorter but twice so everyone gets to see the runners-up to 4 times. It very close watching – a lot like what you see in the Tour de France on the hill climbs. They do a great job of course management. Everyone is cheerful, helpful and makes it fun and safe. I’ve not seen a lot of elite racing up so close. It’s worth that experience alone. You watch the trailing men and women in these races stumble and sputter far behind the leaders only realizing their running at phenomenal speeds.

The women’s race was a three women contest, but quickly turned into the Genzebe Dibaba show. Her pursuit of a WR fell short by 2 seconds – 14:48. Deena Kastor, now 40, missed the Master’s WR by 17 seconds, finishing in 16:08.


The Men’s race was just as exciting. Lawi Lelang managed 1st in 13:32 – slow by Elite standards. Bernard Lagat missed his goal of a Master’s WR coming through in 13:41 (3rd). The WR is 13:24. But his time was nearly a minute off the course master’s record. If he had let me stay in my dream a little longer, perhaps I could have paced him to the WR.

This was a blast to run, to see, and mostly to enjoy with this group. Maybe we can assemble a larger group for next year. I highly recommend it. It’s not too early to mark your calendars – Sunday, April 3, 2016.