Running Amongst Tea Fields and Spices: A race report for the Vagamon Ultrail 50K in Kerala state, India
By Heidi Cusworth
Women’s race winner Maha takes a photo with us just after the finish
Running in a new area is usually quite interesting, and something many runners seek out. An added twist to this is running in a new area where running is not common at all. This adds a whole new dimension to the experience. Bill and I decided to spend 5 weeks in Kerala, one of the southern states in India. Kerala is known for its lush tropics, spices, tea fields, food, and mountains. While planning for the trip, we came across a listing for a 50K set amongst all of this! We couldn’t believe it, so of course we signed up, despite the fact that I’d never run a 50K before, let alone a marathon. While I run and hike regularly, I pinned a lot of hope on the idea that the landscape would carry me through (and Bill!). The race was at the tail end of our trip, so for the first 4 weeks in Kerala we ran every day followed by afternoon hikes. I think this ultimately helped me in being able to finish with a big smile on my face.
The race was based in Vagamon, at an elevation of ~1100 meters (3400 ft) above sea level. Vagamon is a small village in the Indian state of Kerala and is mainly supported by outdoor adventure activities in the surrounding areas. With its scenic valleys, pine forests, spice plantations, tea estates, waterfalls, bald grassy hill tops, and overall greenery, it really is rather striking area. The course took us through these different terrains and was very well-marked with signs and friendly volunteers. The elevation provided relief from the heat and humidity from the tropical coastal areas and was really quite pleasant for running – 60 deg at the start and about 75 deg at the finish.
We opted to participate in a partial package tour for the race. This was perfect as it allowed us the opportunity to spend the night before and the night after the race, in the race headquarters hotel. It also included a pre and post-race breakfasts and dinners, transportation to and from the start and finish areas, and transportation back to Cochin, the city with the airport for our flight home. It made things very simple to use this package as we could just focus on the experience and not any of the logistics.
Checking in at the race hotel
The day before the race, we checked in at the race hotel and received our bib number and T-shirt. Much to our surprise, all of the bibs had the first name of the runner printed on the front. Even more of a surprise was then seeing the race T-Shirt, which has the full names of each the runners printed on the back! Overall, the T-shirt is a nice design but unfortunately the color is a rather bright pink/peach blend, which is neither Bill nor my favorite so you probably won’t be seeing either of us wear it in public. Before the pre-race briefing, we struck up a conversation with the race organizers and learned a bit about the club that was putting on the race. The club is called Soles of Cochin and they started organizing workouts and races about 3 years ago. Their first race was the Spice Coast Marathon in Cochin, which is at sea level along the coast, and where the climate is always hot and humid. Our race, The Vagamon Ultrail, was the clubs first organized race in this more mountainous area. We found out when chatting with the organizers, that we were the first international participants in any of their races! As night fell, the race briefing finally started and luckily for us, it was all in English. So many languages are spoken in India that English ends up being the main common language for all of them. Immediately following the briefing was a pre-race dinner, served outdoors.
Early in the race through the tea fields
Saturday, January 6th was race day and it was so hard to sleep the night before because I was so nervous and excited. The bus arrived at 5:30am to take us to the start at a schoolyard and also breakfast for those who could eat. Bill managed to wolf down the provided hummus and flatbreads, while I sipped a cup of tea. The race briefing was short and sweet with lots of cheers to just celebrate us all being there. We started on time at 6:30am and immediately found ourselves immersed in the tea fields. About 90 percent of the course was on trails or dirt roads, with the rest being on paved, but rural roads. Overall, the course was very technical with a lot of steep and/or overgrown sections and rocky footing everywhere except the paved sections.
In general, there was an Aid Station or a Rest Area every 4 kms (2.5 mi). The aid stations were incredibly well-stocked with water, energy drinks, fruits etc. during the race. The rest areas along the course were additional items and places to lie down. Because this race was so incredibly well staffed and organized, we didn’t need to carry anything! With the aid stations being so frequent, we were never short on water or anything else we needed. At the 20K rest area, there was hot food and tons of it! We actually stopped for over 20 minutes to sit down and have a proper breakfast! During our travels in Kerala we fell head over heels in love with the food. In addition to flatbreads with hummus, they had Idli’s, which are one of Kerala’s main breakfast staples. They are made up of fermented roasted rice and lentil flour and served with various curries and chutney’s. They had tons of fruit, coconuts, tea & coffee etc. No one left hungry.
Side by side the whole way!
Our time goal for the race was simply to beat the pre-stated 10-hour time limit and the 30km intermediate time limit of 6 hours. We knew ahead of time that the course was actually 52.7km, a little bonus distance at no extra costJ. Our plan was to run the flats and downhills but walk the uphills and steep rocky sections. The course was marked every 5km, so we knew we needed to be under an hour at each mark. At the start we hoped to put “time in the bank” by actually running each 5km under an hour and get to 30K in 5 hours. We hit the first two 5Km markers at 45 min each and the 3rd in 30 min (probably was short) so even with the 20min breakfast stop at 20K and a huge climb around the 25K mark, we still reached 30K in 4:59, right on our goal!!!!! At that point we were feeling great and knew we could make the time limit even if we walked the rest of the way. From that point on, we were well into a zone that neither of us had trained for, so we did end up walking a fair bit of it with the occasional jog on downhill and flat sections.
After running in the tea fields along with the tea field workers and their homes in the early part of the course, we crossed streams and eventually dropped into a cardamom spice plantation. Around the 35km mark, we passed into a specially planted pine forest called Pine Valley that was a big tourist draw (they don’t have natural pine forests in India). For that part of the course, we kind of felt like we were back in the USA running around Tahoe. The course then lead us back into more tea and spice plantations, up into rolling hills and eventually along a razor-edge cliff top path that was breathtaking. I had a hard time looking down as the drop was rather drastic, there were parasailers flying around in the draft, it was rather awesome to be a part of. We started seeing runners that were doing the concurrent 80K course and were running most of the 50K course in the reverse direction. The last part of the course was an out and back section to the top of a sacred rock outcrop called Thangalpara before finally finishing at the Vagamon Orchidarium.
One of the many selfies during the race –this one in Pine Valley
Whenever we ran by people we were always greeted with a smile and a hello. Sometimes we were even asked to stop and take a photo. Selfies are very big in India! Several racers took selfies with us in Pine Valley. At Thangalpara, which is this incredible rock outcrop near the end of the race, we were stopped two different times by groups of guys who were genuinely excited and somewhat surprised to see a girl running. We were asked to stop and take selfies with each person in the group! There must be quite a few funny photos of Bill and I during this race that we’ll never get to see.
Before the race started, I was lucky to bump into one of the other female racers who ended up being the overall female winner. I had a really nice chat with her. Near the end of the race while I was running up the Thangalpara outcrop, she was already coming down. Instead of just running by, she ran up to me, stopped, and gave me a big hug and said how happy she was to see me! It was just so heartfelt and it really gave me a new spring in my step which I really needed at that point.
Bill and I crossed the finish line hand in hand with huge smiles on our faces. We finished in 9:16 and while we were exhausted, we were so happy that things had gone so well. Every finisher was adorned with a ceramic finisher’s medal and then each person was asked to bang a gong to commemorate their accomplishment. They had plenty of snacks and cooked food at the finish which we thoroughly enjoyed after draining ourselves on the course.
When the final results came out, we were surprised to find out that we finished 20th and 21st overall out of around 70 finishers (out of 110 registered). I ended up finishing 3rd of 7 women in the field, just a few minutes behind 2nd place. I have to give massive thanks to Bill for sticking with me and being such a great running partner. We would highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a unique experience!
You can check out a video trailer for the race at:
“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.
Created 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 https://www.runragnar.com/event-detail/trail/tahoe_ca
Empire Runners is teaming up with #SonomaStrong Parks Restoration Challengeto 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 https://goo.gl/4pBZ3A. 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)
The 2018 Phaby-Gray Resolution Run – Race Director’s Report, By Race Director Brad Zanetti / Photos by Dave DeSelle
Jan. 1, 2018 unlike last year when we were engulfed in ‘pea soup’ –like fog until race time, this morning started clear and sharply cool (high 30s). Sunrise shone warm yellow cirrocumulus cloud formations. In short order the early morning sun rose brightly and warm; yet the air temperature remained cool. In short, “perfect racing weather!” Just before 8am the Empire Runner setup/timing crew descended on Place to Play Park to prepare the course and get ready for this years Resolution Phaby-Gray Run.
By 10am, 241 runners toed the line and summoned by the blast of a marine horn were off. By the end of the first loop of the soccer fields UC Santa Cruz’ Dante Capone (Analy HS) had taken control of the race with 18yo Patrick Lynch following closely and Vojta Ripa further back in 3rd place. On the women’s side Petaluma’s Sarah Hallas led the women running in 8th Place overall and had a large lead over #2 Lisa Renteria who, in turn, had a large gap over 13 year old Sarah Skandera. The racers continued out and around the collecting pond, out the West gate on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail heading east past Malibu Circle to the turn around (~2.4 miles). Around 14:30 on the clock the slight figure of Dante Capone appeared alone on the trail behind the baseball field. With a strong finish, Dante was easily first and broke the course record in 15:23(4:57 pace). A devastating kick by Vojta Ripa found him passing Patrick Lynch in the closing 150 meters, finishing 2nd in 16:25 with Patrick holding 3rd in 16:29.
It did not take long for the sighting of the first woman, Sarah Hallas finishing in a fine 17:42, 8th place overall. The gap between Sarah and 2nd place finisher Lisa Renteria was almost exactly the same as the mens race as Lisa finished in 18:46. Sarah Skandera rounded out the top 3 in 19:52. For another 36 minutes, runners and walkers circumvented the course finishing in differing levels of exhaustion but all seemed happy to have done so.
It was a beautiful morning and a great way to start the New Year. An award ceremony and raffle followed with a bevy of items provided by the 3 local running stores: Heart and Sole, Fleet Feet and HRC; and a large number of items from Lagunitas Brewing. All children 12 and under received a rainbow finishers ribbon. There were many smiles as the crowd left with their booty in hand.
The atmosphere was fantastic and the race ran well and on time (Bob Shor would have been proud). We will miss his smile and booming voice but his presence will always be felt. It takes a lot of volunteers and diligence to make the event run smoothly and I would like to thank them specifically. I apologize for those I miss.
First I would like to thank Jerry Lyman and his timing crew (Mike McGuire, Jacqueline Gardina). Jerry doesn’t just time the event. He has a hand in most of the aspects of each of our events and every race coordinator is deeply indebted to him (and this from a guy I remember telling all of us about 3-4 years ago at our monthly meeting that he was ‘retiring’ from these duties.) Thank you Jerry for ‘retiring’.
This particular race is heavily dependent on the huge effort by Luis and Melanie Rosales and the Piner Cross Country team. Short of the timing tent, the Piner group has their hands in almost every other aspect of race day duties and without them I would be there at 7am and wouldn’t leave until after 1pm and the job done would be substandard.
Thirdly we need to thank our 3 local running stores; Heart and Sole, Fleet Feet and Healdsburg Running Company (HRC) who not only provide a presence at our events, many items for the raffle and the cool Top 3 shirts (Heart and Sole) but so positively impact our running community. These are not just running shoe stores, though their value for just proper shoe sizing and selection is a given. It is all of the other stuff they provide: clothing, nutrition items, books, auxiliary running gear, and most importantly in my mind, their sense of community with weekly runs, pub runs, in store parties and raffles, xc/track spike nights, speakers and post Tubbs Fire shoe and clothing drives. They have so positively impacted our running community I can’t picture local running without them. They have partnered with Empire Runners to make Sonoma County a running mecca and I can’t thank them enough.
Next I would like to thank Lagunitas Brewery for their continued support and donating many items and beer for all of our age group winners (21 and older) and the raffle. And speaking of raffle I would like to highlight my daughter Michelle, my son-in-law Zach and Val Sell for improving the raffle experience. We will continue to try to make this positive for everyone. I apologize if you didn’t get something (although there were a lot of coasters and magnets left J). There were many others who helped with setup and breakdown and I thank you.
I would like to thank the City of Santa Rosa for allowing us to use Place to Play Park. Its open parking, easy entrance/exit and flat and fast course make it a great place to put on the race.
Finally, I would to thank the Empire Runners for their continued support of Sonoma County running. We are a growing group, from around 200 several years ago to now over 800. For one fee you get to be part of a great group with FREE races, FREE track meets and the chance to volunteer (also FREE!) and shape how we impact the community. Our one fund raiser, Kenwood Footrace, provides us with ability to positively impact the community in many ways, including: Free events, Scholarship Program, Trail Management (Annadel) which we support with money and manpower, Children programs (Girls on the Run, ID26.2, etc), Local High School Cross Country events/sponsorship, SouthEast Greenway Project to name but a few. We support many of the other races on our local running calendar as well. In short we are a very active group and continue to need a new infusion of energy and ideas. Please consider coming to our monthly meetings and see where you can be involved or just come out to an event and ask where you can help.
One last thank you to all of the runners who came out yesterday and who make this race the way they want to start the New Year annually. Looking forward to seeing you all again next year.
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.
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.
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.
Long before the fires I came up with a crazy moonshot to try to break 40:00 in a 10k one last time. I am 53 years old and since my 10k PR of 35:49 in 1999, my times have gradually slowed and hover around 42:00 these days.
Photo of Catherine DuBay by Paul Berg.
A sub 40:00 was going to take every little bit of everything I had so 2017 became a year of disciplined eating, hard training and lots of racing to keep me honest.
So, on October 8 as I toed the line at the San Jose Rock n Roll for my big attempt at sub 40:00, I had no idea what the next 24 hours would be like.
I managed a 39:30 10k good for 2nd overall and 1st Master and a few minutes of fame on the big stage.
As we drove home later that day we remarked on the incredible winds. A few hours later I would be packing valuable as we were forced to evacuate our home. My sister who had been evacuated hours before us and had lost her home was now at our house. I asked her what she had packed. She said her running shoes and little else. I grabbed my running shoes, looked at the trophy I’d won just 12 hours prior. It suddenly seemed so trivial and it was left behind as we left.
What a year! 2017 began with the return of a more normal much needed rainfall and a list of resolutions, none of which made much sense as 2017 closed. Who would have thought Donald Trump would become president. Well unfortunately that situation hasn’t gotten any better over the year. Initially the year was dominated by daily horrific ‘tweets’ and a myriad of ridiculous and antagonistic speeches. These were followed by complaints, excuses and firings of our government officials. The almost daily nature of these misgivings have numbed me beyond belief. Just hoping to live to a ripe old age has been my new goal and make it to 2018.
The second dominating feature of 2017 was the large number of friends and family that died this year. The year started with my Uncle’s passing and Bob Shor’s surgery. At this point there was much optimism but by April Bob wasn’t getting better. In the meanwhile ER pal, John ‘Mojo’ Royston was diagnosed with cancer as well. A number of house visits at Bobs and ‘Hamburger Wednesdays” with the ER group were both fun and comforting. But by the midyear it wasn’t going well for either of them; First Bob leaving us in July, then Mojo in August. Without much warning my Mother died in September followed by 2 former coworker/friends in October and November. So the Fall has been dominated with funerals, memorials and celebrations of life. The funerals have sucked but the memorials and life celebrations have been painful yet restorative. Then my son, Mike, moved permanently to South Carolina. Finally, the holidays arrived which I have tried to appreciate more than ever.
Resolutions 2018: Making it through the Holidays unscathed and hopefully re-energized is the first order of business. That being said, with the year I have experienced my resolutions will be few and simple:
1- Say ‘I love you’ as often as possible
2- Live more in the moment
3- Retire(sooner than later)
Left to right, Dale Peterson, Paul Berg, Brad Zanetti, and Val Sell . Photo courtesy of Paul Berg.
Looking forward and back on 2017
Not even considering the national political landscape, 2017 was a rough year for the Empire Runners family. We lost two beloved long-time members, Bob Shor and Mojo, then the October fires displaced so many while reminding us how lucky we are to have great places to run. The outpouring of community support was truly inspiring, plus club members turned in many standout running performances in cross country and throughout the year.
On the personal side, after running the Dipsea in June I needed to have hernia surgery which set me back a few months. Combined with several road trips in our truck camper, my training was haphazard at best, though I did get to see and photograph a lot of natural beauty in the western US.
Christmas brought me a gift of a fancy new Garmin watch courtesy of my thoughtful daughter, which I plan to use to more effectively track my training. At this bewildering age bracket, I realize that core strength is more important than ever, so I’m hoping to do TRX twice a week this year. I’m definitely enjoying the trails more than roads these days, so a longer trail adventure might be in the cards. New Years is a great time to reflect, reset and remember what I’m most thankful for; it’s a long list, including Empire Runners.
From Turns & Distances, a publication of the Officials Committee of the Pacific Associal USA Track & Field
Originally published July 27, 2015:
We were quite moved, a couple years ago, when the Pacific Association Youth Committee named one of their meets The Bob Shor-Charlie Sheppard Classic. The sixth* installment was held in El Sobrante in April. This honors two certified officials who are almost always there for Youth meets.
Sheppard created the youth committee’s original on-line registration system, while also working as back-up starter for many meets and serving as the youth committee’s records chair. He has done heroic work over the years, chairing PA’s Disabled Athletics Committee. (This lately has been renamed the Para Athletes Committee.)
Shor has been principal starter for club meets, association championships, Junior Olympics meets, both on the track and in cross country. He was Youth cross-country chair for many, many years. In addition, he represents the Empire Runners to the Pacific Association Board of Athletics; and will be the starter for the USATF National Club Championships in Golden Gate Park, in December. By all accounts, over several decades, he has never missed a meeting, whether of different Youth and LDR committees, or of the Board of Athletics…until a recent bout of ill-health. Awards he has received include the PA Officials’ Dick Barbour Meritorious Service Award (2001), the Pacific Association Service Award (2006), and PA Long Distance Running Committee’s Lifetime Service Award (2015). Certified since 1990, he is a Master official.
Bob sat down to breakfast with Turns and Distances at a café in Santa Rosa, in early May , and said he didn’t want to be paid for working track meets.
SHOR: It would be work and I don’t think I’d enjoy it. I don’t know. I’ve never tried it. I don’t want to try it. I just want to do it because I want to do it. Because I like it. I mean, I’ve worked, done pretty good. But it was work. I’ve never found out what I wanted to do in the way of a job that I really enjoyed the job. Never had it, just worked because I had to eat, had to pay rent.
But this track and field, after I started it, I don’t think I was doing it for two weeks after I started, all of a sudden I realized how great it was.
As a little kid, I was going to play for the Dodgers. Then I realized I wasn’t quite good enough, so there it was: track and field.
BC: So how did you start officiating?
SHOR: My first year in high school at the end of the track season, our sprinter made it to the state meet. And the guy from the next town over also made it to the state meet. So their sprinter and our sprinter were going to be at our high school just for practice, before they went to the state meet. And the coach asked me if I would just help them out. All of a sudden he had me starting for these two guys. I was a sophomore. And the coach just told me, when you say “set,” just wait before you fire the gun. So I started the races, just for the two of the guys, just for practice, not races. That’s where it started.
BC: Where was this?
SHOR: I’m from New York, I was born in Brooklyn, and at that time we were living out on Long Island, living in the town of New Hyde Park, going to Great Neck High School.
BC: So you basically started officiating even at the beginning of your running career.
SHOR: Yeah. When I was in high school, and the next year, my junior year, I was starting the dual meets, except for the mile. I used to run it. That was the longest race then, in high school, one mile. If you competed in anything from 440– which they used to call it, not 400–or longer, you could only be in one running event; that was it. So my junior and senior years, I ran the mile, and the rest of the time at our meets, I fired the gun for the other races.
BC: What kind of times did you run?
SHOR: In high school, I got down to four-forty-something, nothing spectacular. But I loved it. I just loved the sport, I loved the whole atmosphere. And cross-country, I liked cross-country a lot better than track. You weren’t running around in circles, you were out running in the hills, just mentally it was better.
BC: So you were born in Brooklyn, you grew up on Long Island, how did you wind up in Santa Rosa?
SHOR: For college I went to a military school.
BC: Are you from a military family?
SHOR: No, no, no, no military relatives whatsoever, from any side, just me, I was the outcast, in the military.
I went to Pennsylvania Military College, what it was called then, near Philadelphia. The name has been changed. Now it’s Widener University. Because of Vietnam, the enrollment kept going down and down and down, they had to do something, so they changed the name.
But the military attitude benefited me. I like to think it did, anyway. Then I went to law school, and after the first semester I dropped out, because one of my professors mentioned that if you’re gonna be successful in this business, you gotta get an A in ambulance-chasing. And I figured, no, that’s not my bag.
Then I went on active duty and I went to Vietnam, I was there in ’65 and ’66.
BC: What was your service in Vietnam?
SHOR: I was with the advisors, we were advisors to the Vietnamese infantry. When I went there I was a first lieutenant, when I left I was a captain. And I got hit and I had to get out because of the injury
BC: Where in Vietnam, do you remember?
SHOR: For the most part, it was just 60 kilometers north of Saigon, but you couldn’t go anywhere, you went anywhere, boom, you got shot at.
BC: Do you speak Vietnamese at all?
SHOR: Yeah, because we were advisors. I spent time at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, then eight weeks at Monterey, at the language school, and I learned how to speak Vietnamese, because the teachers couldn’t speak English, so you learned. And then when I got over there, because I was with the Vietnamese, I don’t think I’d been there too long, I realized, I don’t have to translate. They would say something and I could answer right away in Vietnamese. It shocked the heck out of me. How could this happen? I didn’t have to think in English. And I can still speak Vietnamese, a little bit, not as much, at a high school level, because we have a couple of Vietnamese kids in high school, but they were born here, and I can speak better Vietnamese than they can—their parents, no, their parents speak Vietnamese, and I can speak with them a little bit.
BC: After the service…
SHOR: When I got out, I got myself a job up in northern California. I was hired in New York for a company that owned a couple of lumber mills near Arcata and Crescent City.
I met a woman when I was up there in Arcata, Linda, and we married. Unfortunately, after ten and a half years, she died of cancer.
And I got married again, and I’ve been married ever since to another one, Alix. She worked for the county as a social worker. Different departments, different positions. She is now retired but helps out with a few different organizations. She has very little interest in sports. But she sticks with me.
We got married in 1980 and we had a daughter, born about a year and a half later, she’s now Adrienne Johnson. She, her husband, and their boys live in Quincy.
I was in the lumber business about a year and a half. I could see I wasn’t going to stick with that, so I worked for the newspaper in Eureka, selling advertising, and I’ve been in sales ever since. I worked for that newspaper, I worked for a very short time for the newspaper in Salem, Oregon, and then moved here, to Santa Rosa, and I was working for the newspaper here, selling advertising.
After about six years, I started working for a winery, Windsor Vineyards, hawking wine, with personalized labels, over the phone. That’s when I realized, sales is sales. No matter what you’re selling, you’re not selling the product, you’re selling yourself. People don’t buy the product, they buy you. That’s how I wound up selling wine. Not that I drank very much of it, but I sold it.
I worked for Windsor Vineyards for 13 plus years and then came retirement, and that’s the best part. I tell people, if I’d known retirement was so good, I would have done it years before. Now I’ve been retired about 17* years.
BC: You do a lot with youth. How many meets do you figure you work a year?
SHOR: Probably about 120. Like this week. Here I had a meet last Saturday, Sunday, then I had a meet on Tuesday and yesterday and I got one today and I got a youth meet this Saturday. And there’s no meet Sunday because it’s Mother’s Day and if we had a meet on Mother’s Day, it would be over. The parents would never come to a meet again.
BC: How did you get involved with Youth on the governance side? In fact, Joanne Camargo tells us that when she became Youth Chair, you and Charlie Sheppard constituted the entire PA youth committee.
SHOR: When Joanne became the Youth Chairman, Charlie Sheppard and I were quite active as officials and on the Youth committee, but there were quite a few other people as active as we were or more so.
The reason I got involved with the youth was my daughter. I didn’t even know youth existed until then, then I found out what it was, and I got with the local youth club, and I started helping them out, and I went to the meetings, for the youth committee. Come January we would set up the schedule for the year, and I’d just see what was going on, ask questions, and I got involved in it. In ’89 is when I got with the youth. It just grew from there.
BC: So, you’ve been officiating essentially your whole life.
SHOR: In Arcata, I used to start the meets up in Arcata. Everywhere. Even when I was in the service. When I was at Fort Polk, in Louisiana, we were doing basic training, every eight weeks we would rotate, eight weeks, then a new group. I used to start at the small high school track meets, in a small town. Kinda pathetic, but I liked it. It was just too small a town.
BC: You volunteer at Santa Rosa High School, is that right?
SHOR: I’m one of the coaches with the high school. On the list, I’m listed as the head girls’ coach, although there’s one person who coaches the whole thing, he’s actually the head coach, then it’s myself and we have a bunch of other people that do the coaching. The way they pay, they have a head boys’ coach, they have a head girls’ coach, and then they have assistant coaches, depending on the number of kids. So we’ve got two assistant coaches, but one person is listed as the head coach. I coach the hurdles and I help out on everything else, everything, whatever that has to be done. The only thing I can’t do is pole vault. That is not my bag.
BC: Understood! We’re our own little cult over there—athletes, coaches, officials. When we were talking to Mark Drafton, at Santa Rosa Express, he mentioned you working with Sarah Bei (2001 Pan Am Games steeplechase winner) and Julia Stamps (six-time All American in cross country and track at Stanford, six-time national team member) and Kim Conley (US Olympian at 5,000 meters in 2012 [and 2016]). That was through Santa Rosa High?
SHOR: No, Santa Rosa Express.
BC: Did you see something really special in them at the beginning?
SHOR: They have that something that you can’t read in the book. They don’t like to lose. There’s just something there, they just have it.
Like with Kim Conley, she didn’t have that at the beginning, but the other two girls did. They just Did Not Like To Lose and didn’t take ‘em long to realize if they want to win, if they don’t want to lose, they gotta work. And they put the effort in and you didn’t have to push. They would work. And they were a pleasure to work with because of that. And you wonder, how come the others don’t want to do that? Because that’s why there’s just those few, especially in distance running.
In sprinting, the way I look at it, you’ve either got the speed or you don’t have the speed. You can improve it, but you’re not going to move from the bottom to the top.
But in distance running, it hurts. And you just have to make it hurt more.
Like when I talk to the kids on this, I say, okay, in cross country, you’re going so far, now the faster you go, the sooner you get to the finish, the sooner it stops hurting. And they laugh. It’s not funny! It’s true! You gotta make it hurt, and some people can do it, some people can’t. It’s upstairs. It just says that. The light doesn’t go on and say, “that’s enough,” but that’s enough, you can’t go any faster. But other people just do it. And that’s what makes the difference between why some are better than others.
BC: Coach Drafton also gives you credit for teaching rules and especially etiquette to the parents and athletes with Santa Rosa Express.
SHOR: Track etiquette, well, it’s not so much the rules, it’s the attitude. Maybe I’m being as biased, as prejudiced on this as possible, but I like to think people in track are just a step above people in other sports. In this sport, there’s no contact. It’s you, it’s an individual. One thing we don’t have in this sport is a bench. Nobody sits on the bench. Everybody plays. That’s a different attitude. And with the parents, all of a sudden, parents realize what this has done for their kids. And all of a sudden, parents want to get involved in it. It’s just a different attitude.
There are no time outs in this sport, nobody sits on the bench, it’s a different attitude, it’s you. And if you’re content to come in last, that’s fine, but most of the kids don’t want to come in last, so they work.
Also, in other sports half of the people clap and the other half boo. In our sport nobody boos. Well, I guess the only time they boo in our sport is after a false start when they blame the starter. One person breaks, seven don’t, but it’s the starter’s fault. Oh well.
BC: We get a bit of that in field events, too. And umpires! Miss steps on the line or a baton exchange out of the zone by 10 centimeters, and you’ll hear about it. But, let’s talk about the qualities or skills that a starter should have, in your opinion, especially to work with youth.
SHOR: You’ve got to have confidence in them, they’ve got to have confidence in you, that when you say “on your marks,” that they’re not going to mess it up for you, you’re not going to mess it up for them. Get ‘em in there, just so they know, when I say “on your marks,” get in position. When I say, “set,” come up immediately. And what I find, you’ve got to hold them. You can’t just say, set-go. Sure, it’s a legal start, because nobody breaks, but it’s not a fair start because they don’t get out even. Get them set, and when they’re all still, boom!, then, the gun goes off, and all eight of them get out even. After all eight are out of there, then as a starter, I’m done. But to get them out even, that’s the whole thing.
And it’s just something. I remember when I first started doing this, 62* years ago, I was scared stiff and all of a sudden I realized that, hey, if I can do it, they can do it, and I could feel it, you just know that you’re doing it right. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Youth or it’s a high school, or it’s college, or whatever.
I do a lot of the LDR, the cross country and road running, both starting and refereeing. See, there’s another thing. I used to run. And if I was supposed to run at 9 o’clock, upstairs, in the head, I was ready to go, and I had to sit there and wait and wait and I would go crazy, I had to go to the bathroom, nothing came out, but I had to go to the bathroom. It’s nerves! So I figure, these runners, they have to be thinking, most of them are thinking the same way, maybe all of them, I don’t know. But I figure we’re going to start at 9 o’clock, we start at 9 o’clock, period, on the button, and I’ll go to the nearest second, so everybody knows, that’s the way it’s going to be. And it makes me feel good, sometimes people come over and say thank you.
BC: What is your advice for a new official, just starting a career with us?
SHOR: Go out there and have a good time, and so far as learning, no one thing is difficult, if you’re trying to get it all put together, that takes time. But if you can go out there and take care of one thing and make sure it runs right, and you’re out there to make it right for the athletes, you’re not out there to make it right for you, it’s for the athletes. And if you’re doing that, it makes you feel good.
That’s what the sport’s all about. We don’t get paid for doing this, we’re out there to help them; they’re not there to help us.
But there are always details to take care of, sometimes a lot of them.
It’s like a couple years ago, when they had the World Masters Championships in Sacramento, I was on the technical end, and for the steeplechase, we had to get a trellis, that’s what the rules say, so when the runners come up they can see it’s a water jump, they know that there’s something there.
So I go out and I get the trellis, make sure I’ve got a 30 inch high trellis to put across, because that’s what it is for the women. And I put it down and all of a sudden, it sticks up above the top of the barrier. And I think, maybe I got the wrong trellis. And I measure it and it’s 30 inches. Then I realize the water jump barrier is too low.
I did the measurement again and saw it just happened to be the thickness of a 2×4, an inch and a half. So I just took the caps off and put a piece of 2×4 in there, drilled the holes and set it in there, and every way this is legal, so now, it’s at 30 inches and when you raise it six inches for the men, it’s 36 inches.
I just happened to catch it. But if the trellis hadn’t have been there, I wouldn’t have realized it was too low. I like things to be done right.
BC: What do you see as the best outcome for an athlete coming through the PA youth program?
SHOR: Starting with the youth, what you gotta realize is you can take kids born the same day—physically, not mentally but physically—some are way ahead of others. And some that are down at the bottom end, as they grow older, they catch up and they go ahead of the other people and they’re the ones who end up being successful. The ones that start doing it at the top, it’s too easy. And then when the others catch up with them, they don’t want to do it anymore.
BC: This is going back to Julia and working hard, isn’t it?
SHOR: But she worked hard and she kept going.
They’re special. Julia Stamps and Sarah Bei, it just so happened that they were four years apart, so they never competed against each other, not in high school, because one graduated and the other started.
We had another girl from around here, right in between, Trina Cox. She never won a league championship, but she won the state meet. But in the league, she had Julia Stamps for the first two years and Sarah Bei for the last two years. But she won the state meet in cross country and she made it to the state meet on the track, but nobody knows who she is because she was beaten by these other two girls. But she was also one of the top girls we’ve had around here, also came through the Santa Rosa Express.
BC: What’s the best individual athletic performance you’ve been part of?
SHOR: Oh, my god. There are so many spectacular races that I’ve seen. I’ve gotta say with Kim, making it to the Olympics, that was just her race, that was just unbelievable, the way she pulled that one out, by far.
I’ve seen many spectacular races, not just with the Youth, but going all the way back, even when I was in high school, my idol was a guy who won the Olympics in ’56 at 1500 meters, happened to be an Irishman, but he was going to Villanova, Ron Delany. He was my idol in track, and just seeing him in some of these indoor meets, where he would hang back and then take off. At all levels, a race is a race is a race.
Somebody jumping 29 feet. You can’t imagine how far 29 feet is. You look at your house, you don’t have a room that’s close to 29 feet. And you wonder, when Bob Beamon cleared 29 feet, how high up did he have to go? Everybody thinks, boom, you take off and you go straight. But there’s gravity. If you’re going to go straight, you’re going to come down right away. How high did he go? I can remember when Beamon set the world record, that’s back in ’68 in the Olympics and I’m thinking, that will never ever happen again, it’s impossible. But it’s happened. Not very often, but it’s happened again, it’s just unbelievable.
It’s the same thing when somebody has high jumped 8 feet. You look at 8 feet, go in your house, and measure from the floor to the ceiling, that’s not eight feet! And someone has actually cleared that. That’s unbelievable.
And in the pole vault. Over here at the JC, one time I just wanted to show somebody what twenty feet is like. Up in the bleachers, I got up on top and I let a tape measure hang, and I realized it wasn’t 20 feet high! That’s high! How can they do that? It’s amazing.
BC: Tell us something personal, that people might not know about you.
SHOR: When my daughter was about 5, for whatever reason I cannot remember, she went riding at a stable just up the hill from where we still live and my wife, Alix, and I were hooked. That summer we spent a week at a dude ranch in Quincy and figured out how to ride a horse. Our daughter really got good at it, my wife and I took some lessons at the local stable and for some reason or other we bought a horse for our daughter. For quite a few years after that we would spend a week each summer and/or winter at a real live cattle ranch north of Susanville or at a ranch north of Pyramid Lake in Nevada. That all came to an abrupt end when our daughter went to college. I think I’d have a tough time riding a horse now.
I still have lots of friends back east from college, and I still can’t figure out how come when I went back for my 50th college reunion, all the other guys there were old, I was the only young guy there, I can’t figure that out.
BC: What would you like your legacy to be, here in the North Bay?
SHOR: Just so they don’t call me a bum, basically that’s it, just be nice.
There’s other people who are putting as much effort or more.
I just want to do this as long as I possibly can.
Bruce Colman thanks the following individuals for helping to prepare this interview: Joanne Camargo, Mark Drafton, Irene Herman, George Kleeman, Margaret Sheehan, and Dave Shrock.
How Youth feels about Bob Shor
Joanne Camargo tells a story about a Pacific Association Youth championship when it was 110 degrees on the track. Bob had problems with the heat—passed out, Joanne says—and was sent back to the hotel. One of the Bantam boys came up to her, and said, “Where’s Bob?” He’s back at the hotel, resting. “I can’t run if Bob doesn’t start me. Will he be here tomorrow?”
*Note: The years were updated to reflect today, 2 years after the original interview.
A memorial gathering for Bob Shor will be held tomorrow, September 16, 2017, at 2 p.m. in Santa Rosa High School’s auditorium.
“On Sundays We Go Long”, A Novel by, Ty Strange, BeachLife Books, Santa Rosa, CA, 2017, pp 485
This is the second novel of the Empire’s very own Ty Strange. His first novel a few years ago (2014), “Hunt for Wolf_Eyes”, was a good first book and as previously reviewed was not a running book. As I stated during that review it was and still is a very worthwhile read. But what I (we) are always looking for is a great fiction running book (probably should be written by a runner). Some previous positively reviewed fiction running books have included: The John L Parker, Jr trilogy (“Again to Carthage” et al) and “100 Miles to Destiny” by Willis B McCarthy. Even before reading his first novel I asked Ty if a fiction running book was in his future and he assured me there was. Well three plus years later here it is.
With great excitement I began reading, “On Sundays We Go Long”. Unlike any other book I have read in recent history I had an inkling of what the book would be like or at least I thought I did. I knew it was a book about running (an activity we readily do), about a group of age group racers (kind of like us), who run regularly in the hills and trails of Santa Rosa (again like us) and whose lives are intermeshed outside of running (sound familiar?). And unlike many of those other books my first readings of “On Sundays We Go Long” were difficult, slow and frankly not what I expected.
In fact it took me about 100 pages before I had fleshed out the characters and got my mind wrapped around the storyline. I say this because in no other book have I been so insistent on trying to figure out exactly who each character IS in relation to one of the many characters who reside currently in the Empire Runner Empire. I also say this because this is a fiction book and my insistence hindered my getting involved in the story line. If you read the book allow yourself to read it for what it is and immerse yourself in the storyline. After fleshing out the characters I thoroughly enjoyed the ride; a season of Cross Country (XC) racing in the PAUSATF NorCal circuit, specific workouts (felt like I was running in the races, trails, etc) and the relationships of this “fictional” band of brothers.
I think this is a very worthy read. The author has a lifetime of running history to draw on and it shows yet it is not just a story of 5 guys running around in shorts. It is much more than that with some twists and turns to keep the reader interested. By the end it was a very good running story, written by a runner for runners. Though I think it shouldn’t be relegated to just runners or local readers. I think the story line is more global than that. Yet I did definitely lose myself in what was familiar and so I think this is a story for runners everywhere but a must read for those who live and race locally or on the circuit. I think it is a great addition to any runners library and although I am not sure who else will be reading this review, enjoying “On Sundays We Go Long” shouldn’t be limited to just us runners.
July 14, 2017, Happy Bastille Day. To those of you not interested in the history of France evert your eyes for a couple of paragraphs. This national holiday originated with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. This action was a major turning point of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a fortress-prison often holding political dissidents and authors whose writings angered the Nobel class. As such, the Bastille was a symbol of absolutism of the Monarchy. As it turns out, the Bastille was also a storage facility of guns, ammunition and gun powder. So quicker than you could say, BAM – ZOOM, the peasant/working class had made their mark and statement to the ruling class and the trajectory of the French Revolution was forever changed.
But enough of my simple version of history, Bastille Day for me marks the midpoint of the Tour de France bicycle race. And the big question is; Will this be the year a French rider wins the Bastille Day Stage (14 this year)? For those of you who have been following this years version of the TdF, it has definitely been interesting and remarkably close this deep into the event (8 stages left). From the rain slicked opening stage (Prologue) with a myriad of crashes and crash outs through multiple stages of intense heat and more slick roads and even more bad crash outs this years Tour has had a fabulous storyline. In contrast to most of the tours this century, the race is very close with 4 riders within 35 seconds of the leader (yellow jersey wearer-maille jeune) and the top 10 all within 5 minutes of the podium.
Today’s race continued this story of close racing, multiple attacks, riders taking chances on downhills and tightening of the general classification results. In fact just today, the top 10 riders overall ended up in the top 10 of the day’s stage, and for the first time since 2005, a Frenchman (Warren Barguil) won the Bastille Day Stage. Not only was Barguil brought to tears but so was most of France (or maybe the tears were from Trump’s visit – I don’t know 🙂
The results of Stage 14:
Warren Barguil (France)
Nairo Quintana (Colombia)
Alberto Contador (Spain)
GC results (total of 14 stages): (Over 1500 miles)
Fabio Aru (Italy) Yellow Jersey
Chris Froome (RSA) 6 seconds back
Romain Bardet (France) 25 seconds back
Rigoberto Uran (Colombia 35 seconds back
Yellow (1st Place) – Fabio Aru
Polka Dot (climber) – Warren Barguil
White (top under 25yo) – Sean Yates
Green (sprinter) – Marcel Kittel
Top Team – Sky
So maybe you are wondering why the TdF update. Well I thought:
1- A fair amount of runners also follow the TdF.
2- It is Bastille Day.
3- A book review will be coming soon including a mention of the book, “The Secret Race”, by Tyler Hamilton.
For those of you who remember of the Pre-2013 TdF you might remember a guy named, Lance Armstrong, who dominated the tour for about 10 years, tried to cure cancer and then came clean(?) on how he cheated the whole time on Oprah. Well not exactly entirely clean, but it was a start. Frankly I never met anyone who didn’t back Lance for most of this tenure and many didn’t believe it even after the Oprah interview. But now years later (anybody know where Lance is, anybody care?) does having more answers to how far he went to cheat and keep from getting caught interest you? Well if it does, consider this book by Tyler Hamilton a must read. It is informative, I believe accurate (if you followed this closely I think you will agree) and well written. It has the pace of a mystery adventure novel and I highly recommend it. I will leave the reader to write their own review.
Also coming soon will be the review of 2 running books:
1- “The Longest Fall”, by, Lee Krinsky
2- “On Sundays We Go Long”, by, Ty Strange (fellow ER member and XC National teammate(2011)
I will begin the review this weekend, but a here’s a teaser line:
“I enjoyed it and everything from the book cover to the storyline itself will be familiar to many Empire Runners who have run the PAUSATF XC Circuit and our many trails in Annadel and Santa Rosa Creek. You might even recognize some of the characters.”
This is Ty’s second novel and one runners have been looking for: A novel written by a runner for a runner.
The Empire Runners have a long-standing commitment to providing scholarships to deserving student athletes of Sonoma County making the transition from high school to college. Made possible by dues and contributions from our members, we are giving our 4 recipients a total of $5000 in scholarship awards this year. All club members should be proud of the part they play in this most wonderful of traditions through generous donations.
These four student-athletes will be formally introduced and awarded their scholarship checks at the Kenwood Footrace on July 4th. Please join us in congratulating these outstanding young members of our running community.
Our first recipient comes from a large family of Empire Runners. He began his athletic career as a varsity soccer player at Windsor High. With the changing of the boys soccer season to the spring, the Fall 2016 became open to explore cross country, and through determination and hard work he made varsity his very first year. As a first year runner, his coach was very impressed with his positive attitude and hard work.
To just discuss this athlete’s athletic accomplishments would be a disservice to his academic career. This scholarship student is not only a 4.5+ GPA but also graduated #1 in his class and was the Salutatorian at Windsor HS. His teachers speak of him in glowing terms not just because of his GPA but rather the impact he has in the classroom, bringing the level up for his fellow students. Our first recipient will be continuing his studies at UC Irvine and continuing his running in intramurals and we are looking forward to him coming home and running more Empire Runner events.
Please join us in recognizing this future Anteater, from Windsor High School: Dylan Moberly
Our next recipient also began his running career later after playing soccer and basketball his first 2 years of high school, finding his way to cross country and track his junior year. In his first year of cross country his impact was evident as he was voted most inspirational and accompanied his teammate who had qualified for the State XC Championships in Fresno. He has been an outstanding track and field athlete for Rincon Valley Christian running the 400, 800, 1600, triple jump and discus. His true passion is the pole vault where in just 2 years he has already cleared 12’9” and qualified for the NCS Meet of Champions. He has a PR of 18:00 on the Spring Lake Course which he then matched on a more difficult course at the NCS XC Championships.
This fine multi talented athlete has also had a strong and varied scholastic career, carrying a 3.75 GPA and excelling in music and piano. What impressed the committee the most was his thought that the influence of cross country has made him a better student. In his own words, “by making running a lifestyle, running 5 miles will not phase the individual. When something difficult becomes familiar, then other concepts become easier. Therefore, after running 5 miles, a test or paper no longer appeared difficult”.
This talented scholarship athlete will be continuing his studies and furthering his athletic career at SRJC. Coach Wellman is looking forward to this XC and multi-talented track and field athlete staying local and perhaps developing his decathlon skills.
We welcome this new Bear Cub, from Rincon Valley Christian HS: Nicholas Dolan
Our third scholarship recipient is the classic story of a runner with no experience who joins the XC team mostly for its social aspects, gets comfortable, works hard, sets goals… did we say works hard? Then she finally achieves her goal to run Varsity and has her best 2 races of her life at NBL, then NCS. Through her 4 years with the XC and track families at Santa Rosa High it wasn’t all just a meteoric rise but rather peaks and valleys, failures and achievements. But overall it looks like this classic story is just the first part of a multi-part sojourn with the next sequel being able to run at her chosen university.
From a 9 minute miler in her first XC race to a PR of 20:39 at NBL her senior season, she followed with the same time at NCS on a notoriously harder course. Her best team finish ever fulfilled her goals for XC and with this new found strength led her to success on the track.
Yet metrics alone fail in comparison to her impact on team dynamics, her hard work, toughness and respect she both earns and gives.
An excellent student with a GPA above 4.4 in a dedicated all honors and Art Quest curriculum, this recipient also filled her spare time with volunteering at a variety of events including a 6 year commitment at the Sonoma County Animal Shelter.
With a plan to direct her college career at Scripps University in the area of literature and writing with a goal of becoming an author, our third scholarship recipient can very well write her own sequel to this memorable story.
We’re pleased to recognize this former Panther and new Athena, from Santa Rosa HS: Samantha Baker
Our final scholarship recipient ran with the SR Express as a middle schooler but began his high school athletics on the football field. When he was recruited for the track team his running began in earnest. Natural ability led him to perform at an all-league level this first track year and continued well through junior year in XC and had him qualify to NCS. But that was not enough for this talented runner; his habit of setting “strong” goals drove him to improve his summer training regimen with the goal qualifying to State. He was a top area XC runner this last season with a PR of 15:32 (34th AT) on the SLC. A 9th place at NCS qualified him to State and his 11th place finish in his very first time on the difficult 5K Woodward Park course was evidence of his talent and commitment. It was more of the same in track with excellent times of 4:29 and 9:32 in the 1600 and 3200 respectively and a qualification to the NCS Meet of Champions. He was All Empire 1st Team in XC and Track.
Through all of this, our fine student athlete maintained a 3.6 GPA and worked at Fleet Feet as a shoe fitter. His outgoing nature, shoe knowledge and social ease makes him a top seller. His small team at Rincon Valley Christian often worked out with a combined group of Montgomery HS runners, to the benefit for all involved. He also volunteered regularly with Church events.
Commitment, strong goal setting and the determination to achieve those goals make this scholarship recipient attractive to a number of collegiate coaches. Those of us who follow College XC and Track will keep an eye out for him at Master’s University in Santa Clarita.
From Rincon Valley Christian HS we are pleased to present: Wes Methum