25th Annual Mat Yeo Memorial Aggies XC Open – October 28,2023

Here, a week before, are Kurt and Brian with the now 87 year old XC musical star, Elmo. He recorded the Christmas classic – Grandma got run over by a Reindeer.

Calling all SPARTANS, Former Spartans, Fringe Spartans, Non-Spartans, Wannabe Spartans, and Significant Other Spartans.: 
Please join us for a post-race lunch following the 25th Annual Matt Yeo Memorial Aggies XC Open.
WHO:      You, of course
WHAT:     A Spartan Eat, be Merry, and Tell Tall Tales Lunch
WHEN:    Saturday, October 28th, 11:30a–(following the Open Men’s Race)
WHERE:  La Primavera, 1311 Pine St., Martinez
WHY:       YOLO, FOMO, WYWH, and you’re SPARTAN FAM!
The Aggies put on a great, spectator-friendly, 5k race at scenic Shoreline Park in Martinez.  The Women’s race starts at 9a, the Masters’ at 9:45, and of the Open Men’s at 10:30.  You can see some of the best harriers in the PA/USA XC circuit as the Aggies seek to dominate once again.  If you want to sleep in, just come to La Primavera at 11:30 and enjoy this colorful cantina offering authentic Mexican favorites.
There will be car-pools heading out of San Jo about 7:45 if you want to hop on board the SPARTAN mobiles.
Please, please, please, please, come because we want you there. Please forward this invite.  We’ll need to make a reservation, so please RSVP by October 21.
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4TH Annual GVH Lagoon Valley XC Challenge – Oct 15, 2023

Sunday, Vacaville

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27th Annual J Lawson Tamapa XC Challenge – Oct 08, 2023

Sunday, China Camp

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Golden Gate XC – October 9, 2023

A battered-but-not-broken quintet of SPARTAN harriers (Albert, Art, Brian, Kurt, and Nick) journeyed north for the 37th annual Golden Gate Park Cross County Open to once again race through this iconic course which is a staple event on the PA/USA XC Grand Prix circuit. Albert would lose his Golden Gate virginity on this run, but the others have circled this two-looper for over 20 years.Still suffering from mild PTSD from last year’s atmospheric river at the PA XC Championship— which sent cataracts and hurricanoes drenching the fields and toppling the Eucalyptus trees – the SPARTANS were pleased to step out into the calm, cool mist of an early San Francisco morning.

After setting up camp on the slope above the Start/Finish Line, the SPARTANS watched the start of the women’s race as they dashed down the dew-wet grass of Lindley Meadow in a kaleidoscopic stream of color. Gillian Meeks would once again score a wire-to-wire victory for SRC, finishing a good 50 meters ahead of the runner-up. Then, with bib numbers pinned, muscles warmed, and fists bumped, the SPARTAN five toed-the-line for the Masters 9:45 am starting gun. At this point, I turned to Art and said, “Are you ready?” Art’s reply has now become the new SPARTAN motto which will be emblazoned on the next iteration of the SPARTAN singlet:

“Estoy listo como un fósforo mojado!”    (I’m ready like a wet match)

The 4-mile two-looper runs down Lindley Meadow for 200 meters, then up a small-but-sloggy embankment to John F. Kennedy Drive. You follow the gradual downhill of JFK Drive past Spreckels Lake and the Bison Paddock before making a left turn on Chain of Lakes Drive. You then follow the road until a course monitor directs to you to a narrow, lumpy, pitted, potholed, ankle-twisting meadow which funnels into a 50 meter section of sand before winding up a single-track trail that opens up to the wide dirt track circling the Polo Fields.You then follow the white arrows leading to the long, gradual uphill through a canopy of Eucalyptus trees which eventually drops you back onto JFK drive and then, once again, to Lindley Meadow. Now repeat.

Well, the wet-match SPARTANS did not bring home any prize money, but all finished the course without mishap. This was supposed to be our year to make a run at the 70+ age group, but the loss of Pat Buzbee, Sal Martinez, and Steve Radigan have dropped us down the harrier rabbit hole. Unfortunately, Kurt has to move up to score the 60 team which really diminishes the great runs of Brian and Nick. However, as we keep reminding each other, “We’re still here.” Or as former SPARTAN Jeff Hongo is found of saying, “I’d rather be in the circus than watching it.” And what a circus we’re in. Run Forrest run . . . .

Brian Conroy: 33:21
Nick Butterfield: 34:02
Kurt Gravenhorst: 42:53
Albert Zimmerman: 43:20
Art Sanchez: 47:02

Jeff Hongo: 25:10 (Former Spartan now with Hoka Aggies
Mike Buzbee: 33:07 (Former Spartan now with River City Rebels)
Norman Cornwell: 36:55 (Former Spartan now with Santa Cruz
Julios Ratti: 37:29 (Unattached.Can we recruit Julios?)
Bill Brusher: 40:54 (Strawberry Canyon)
Elmo Shropshire: 48:07 (86 year old Tamalpa legend)
Gillian Meeks: 22:43 (First Place Women’s Open – SRA Elite)
Hoka Aggies (Open race: a clean sweep: 1,2,3,4,5) Led by Mark Huizer (19:04)
West Valley Track Club: (Masters race: finishing 1,2,4,5,6)
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Santa Cruz XC Challenge August 19, 2023

What a difference a year makes. As the SPARTANS continue to age toward that final “Your Finished Line,” injuries continue to sap the remaining remnants of the SPARTAN senior harriers:
Sal is out with a possible season-ending IT band injury;
Leroy is out with ongoing back issues;
Art continues to struggle with debilitating hip pain;
Kurt can’t shake a hamstring injury that morphed into sciatica;
Lino’s 81-year-old legs demand a rest;
Albert continues to hobble his way back from a lengthy foot ailment;
Brian may possibly only run Golden Gate as the wear-and-tear of last year’s XC circuit             was just too punishing;
Steve, hopefully, may gently be back for a few runs after a long injury layoff;
Pat’s status as this goes to print is still “uncertain.”
However, we still have a healthy and strong-running pair with Nick and Don, and we’re still able to coax enough of the walking-wounded to field a team. So off to Santa Cruz for the 22nd Annual SCTC Cross County Challenge the SPARTANS went.

The Santa Cruz XC Challenge is the traditional opening to the PA/USATF XC season–– and it is not a gentle opening. Even getting to the starting line is a challenge as it requires an uphill, half-mile trek from the parking lot to the small meadow where the race will end (which is about 200m from where the race will begin). The race itself is a 4.15 mile, roly-poly, two-loop romp through the redwood trees above the UCSC campus. There are two significant hills––the first coming at the start!––which, of course, must be climbed twice on the two-looper run. The harriers are further challenged by rocky, root mined sections all along the meandering fire trail. But we were blessed with the ocean-kissed air of a cool, grey Santa Cruz morning, and, of course, once again reuniting with competing harriers, such as Bill Brusher, Julius Ratti, and former SPARTANS Norm Cornwell and Jeff Hongo. In addition, SPARTAN Sal Martinez, though unable to run, surprised us by going to his home course to cheer on, and prop up, his fellow SPARTANS.

Once again, Nick led the SPARTAN pack (string?) gliding through the course with impressive ease, even though he made a quick pit stop by running to our encampment to quench his thirst before beginning the second loop (so SPARTANesque). Kurt faded in the second loop, but like Art and Albert, persevered to the end. After checking to assure that each still had a pulse, the SPARTANS limped back to the distant parking lot to lick wounds and tell tales. Perhaps not a great run, but definitely a great day….


The SPARTANS watched in awe as Gillian Meeks crushed the competition in the women’s race with a blistering 25:23. Gillian runs for what I think may be a new team on the circuit (?): SRA Elite (Sacramento Running Association). The club must be small as they only brought seven harriers: two women who placed 1 and 3, and five men in the Open Division who gave the Hoka Aggies some good competition. The Hoka Aggies won the Open, placing 1 (Sean Davidson 21:47), 2, 10, 11, 12; SRA Elite was second placing 3, 4,12, 22, 29. Who are those guys? But perhaps the most impressive display of dominance was by the West Valley Track Club, led by David Cisewski (22:47), WVTC took the top 10 spots in the Men’s Masters!

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Golden Gate Park 2022 National XC Championships – December 10, 2022

I had been watching it for days with a disquieting uneasiness: a massive atmospheric river rolling down from the Gulf of Alaska––an atmospheric river primed to plummet the fields of Golden Gate Park like the falls of Niagara just in time for the running of the 24th USATF National Club Cross Country Championships. This would be no ordinary rainfall. Forecasters warned that this storm system was a tempest––a drenching downpour that would lash the Bay with wind gusts measuring a solid 10 on the Beaufort scale. This was a storm that would make the Rains of Ranchipur look like a spring mist.

As race day approached, my anxiety increased. Yes, I still had mild PTSD from the Rocklin race of 1999 when the wind howled with such ferocity even the great “half-inch spikes” Charles purposely took a wrong turn just to end the wind-blown torment. So two days before the race, I sent out the email: “Sorry SPARTANS, but with age comes wisdom. I’m staying home.”
Then on the eve of race day I told my son (unofficial SPARTAN Dean) of the madness that Don, Art, Sal, Brian, and Lino were going to literally weather the storm and run the race.
“What’s mad about that?” he asked.
“Are you kidding me? It’s going to be a cold, drenching, windy, muddy slop of a mess for five miserable miles!”
“Sounds like fun to me.”
That comment haunted me for the rest of the day. Was I now too old to see the fun in such a happening? Not the fun, perhaps, of creating the memory, but rather the fun of forever having it? No. “The day we ran the 2022 Club Championship” was not a story I wanted to be told; it was a story I wanted to help tell. At 7 a.m. the next morning, I sent Art a text: “I’m coming.”

The storm did not disappoint. Don from Burlingame and Sal from Santa Cruz drove up separately, while the remaining SPARTANS arrived with Art and began the half-mile trek through the wind and rain to the registration tent. We were a comical sight, wrapped in so much plastic we looked like walking Glad Bags as Lino tried to shelter under his mushroom umbrella which was hopeless against the swirling, wind-swept rain.

Registration was nearly as difficult as the run. Securing a wristband and a bib number on both the front and back of your singlet required a group effort as harriers fumbled with the tiny safety pins with icicle fingers and chased after the paper wristbands that would blow out of their hands. Then there was the occasional 45mph gust of wind that would catch the roof of the tent like a Spinnaker while the registration ladies grabbed the canopy frame and hung like monkeys to keep the tent from sailing into the Eucalyptus trees. By the time we returned to our campsite beneath a small, useless shelter of trees, it was 10 minutes to the starting gun.

The SPARTANS all ran the 8k in a field of 245, age 60+ harriers. Our race started in the East Meadow, ran around the Polo Field, down to Lindley Meadow, then down MLK Drive, then back up to the Polo Field, through the East Meadow again, the Eucalyptus grove, and somehow made it back to the Polo Field for the finish. Sections of the meadows were an energy-sucking, soggy quagmire, and the muddy trails followed flowing rivulets of water on the downslopes with occasional patches slick as black ice. It wasn’t long before the back of every harrier’s singlet looked like the mud flaps of a Proud Boys 4-wheel drive pickup truck. There were, of course, puddles everywhere, some as big as ponds and ankle deep (see photo). And the wind gusts blew so violently I hadn’t seen trees sway like that since I dropped acid back in ’69. At one point in the course the inevitable happened: a tree came timbering down on the course requiring the meet directors to alter the route of the remaining races for fear the Eucalyptus trees would start toppling like Tinker Toys.
At the conclusion the race, we all stumbled around like shivering loaves of soggy bread, dreaming of nothing but dry clothes and a warm room while a single thought was in the mind of each: “Why the hell do we do this?”
I don’t know the answer to that question. But when I got home, I took a hot shower and fell into bed. Then just before I fell into a dreamless sleep, I felt an involuntary smile slowly stretch across my cheeks. And then I said aloud, to absolutely no one in my empty home, “Damn, that was fun . . ..”

And the results of this Madness?
1. Don Donoughe: 38:34. Don continued to carry the blue-ribbon banner for the SPARTANS, and he put a cap on a very good season. We are SPARTAN proud to have Don continue on the team, and we hope to kick dirt with him for years to come.
2. Brian Conroy: 45:23. Always strong and steady, Brian’s upbeat, positive nature is perhaps the strongest thread keeping the frayed SPARTAN tapestry––and our singlets––from unraveling.
3. Sal Martinez: 50:27. What an inspiration and joy this harrier brings to the SPARTAN club. His very presence lifts the SPARTAN spirit, and I hope to see him run past me, with his always-encouraging word, in many future races.
4. Kurt Gravenhorst: 55:43. It’s a wonder he’s still around. That’s praise enough.

5. Art Sanchez: 57:13: Art deserves the SPARTAN courage award. Art ran in more XC races than any other SPARTAN this season despite a relentless, debilitating hip injury. Three times he fell on the mud-slick course, and each time he got up and endured. Simply heroic. He is a harrier at the very core of his being. We all wish him recovery in the off-season because running XC would not be the same without him.

6. Lino Favela: DQ. What can you say about this 81-year-old superman? He brings his peaceful, quiet presence to every race, and always reminds us that it’s not how well you finished that is important. What’s important is that you toed-the-line. I was surprised when I saw Lino standing at the finish line when I came in. I asked, “Lino, did you take a shortcut?” He simply smiled and said, “Who knows?”
Other notables:
––Bill Busher (Strawberry Canyon): 54:50
––Julius Ratti (Unattached); 47:47
––Mike Buzbee (former SPARTAN now with River City Rebels): 44:20
––Jeff Hongo (Hoka Aggies): 41:16 (10k course)

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night––and Happy New Year. And keep on keeping on . . . .

Kurt Gravenhorst

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Golden Gate Park Pacific Assoc. XC Championships – November 20, 2022

  • The SPARTANS swarmed Lindley Meadow on a cool, crisp, cloudless
    morning in Golden Gate Park for the 36th Annual PA XC Championships. Yes,
    “swarmed” is the appropriate word as the Magnificent Seven (Art, Sal, Don, Lino,
    Brian, Nick, and Kurt) gathered to form the largest SPARTAN XC team to lace
    the shoes and kick the dirt since the days of Andrea and “half-inch spikes”
    Charles sported the SPARTAN singlet. Just two years ago, only Art and Sal kept
    the SPARTAN name on life support, journeying together to keep our teamless
    Club name alive in Covid year of 2020. Then last year Nick resurrected the
    SPARTANS from oblivion by taking on the Safe Sport requirements and putting
    our club on the circuit once again.
    So despite our cellar-dwelling performance this year, the SPARTANS are back.
    Be proud.
    Of course, things are a little different now. Gone are the PRs, the sub-
    seven mile pace, the mid-pack surge, and the 400-meter kick to the finish line.
    The discussion of tempo runs, repeat intervals, and hill training that once
    controlled the carpool conversation has been replaced with complaints of
    cramps, cortisone shots, and colonoscopies.
    But we’re still here.
    Be proud.
    The PA XC Championship is unlike all the other races. Once you arrive at
    the race site, you realize there is a unmistakable energy, and you sense a
    peculiar running vibe that lingers in the air as you carry your running bag to the
    registration tent and make camp among the hundreds of sleek harriers that
    stand, sit, stretch, and stride in all directions along the multi-colored canopy tents
    that line the hill overlooking the meadow. You can feel the competition, and you
    know this is your last chance to put in a good run, to beat that guy you’ve been
    battling all season, to cash in on every training day you’ve put in on the road, the
    track, and the trails. Most of the SPARTANS are quite familiar with the Golden
    Gate Park course: the start through Lindley Meadow, down Martin Luther King
    Drive, across the grass field, up the little single-track hill to the Polo grounds,
    then up the wide, Eucalyptus canopied trail, and finally back down to Lindley
    Meadow. And that familiarity may have been the problem for some.
    SPARTAN lore is filled with stories of SPARTANS going off course. Even
    the great “half-inch spikes” Charles faltered at Folsom and was tagged with a
    DNF. And who can forget the Championship race when Brian and Pat were
    chatting on the bleachers lacing their shoes when the starting gun went off. Now
    add this race to the SPARTAN history of missteps. First there was Sal who missed the turn up the hill on the second loop and started running down Lindley Meadow heading for the Pacific Ocean. I was trailing and saw Sal’s error. I immediately started yelling for Sal to come back. I felt like the little kid in “Shane” trying to keep Alan Ladd from riding away: “Sal! Sal! Come back Sal.” Sal finally heard me and corrected his error, but probably added 100 meters to his run. Lino and Art also had tired moments of confusion, but perhaps I set a new low-bar standard being the first SPARTAN to receive “You’ve been DQed” email from the PA/USA governing body. The problem was
    the new 8K course for the 60+ runners created a switch-trail chicane that was
    poorly monitored. The new course comprised two 1.5-mile loops (the west
    portion of the normal two-mile loop, cutting down to Lindley Meadow by the horse
    corral), then one normal two-mile loop. However, they did not anticipate that the
  • slowest runners would be lapped, creating a confusion confluence of cross traffic
    at a poorly monitored intersection. So instead of going down the hill into the
    meadow for a second loop, I followed the flow of runners who were lapping me
    up the Eucalyptus canopied hill and down to the finish—cutting more than a mile
    off the course.
    Don’t be proud.
    Perhaps it’s an age handicap as Brian and Don had no problems, but they
    agreed that the course was not well monitored. Don, in fact, had an excellent run
    that culminated in a dramatic sprint-to-the-finish victory over a battling harrier
    (checkout the video on the PA/USA website to see his dash to victory.)
    Well, there were some defeated, harried harriers limping back home, but
    all agreed the day remained victorious.
    Through Brian’s WVJS connections, we
    have formed some supportive ties with the WVJS who field an impressive
    women’s team.
    Next up is the National Club XC Championships December 10. Running
    or not, come on out SPARTANS and see some of the best harriers in the nation.
    Fortunately, the course will NOT be the same—but I can’t guarantee we wont get
    lost . . .  Kurt Gravenhorst
    1. Don Donoughe 37:31
    2. Brian Conroy 41;51
    3. Nick Butterfield 48:11
    4. Sal Martinez 51:39
    5. Lino Favela 56:16
    6. Art Sanchez 57:54
    7. Kurt Gravenhort DQ
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Martinez XC – October 31, 2022

                           Art, Sal, and I were the only SPARTANS able to make the short sojourn to Martinez for the Matt Yeo Memorial Aggie XC Challenge, but the “Three Spartaneers” were determined to toe-the-line in what the Aggie Website waggishly calls “the greatest cross-country race in the world, or at least America, or at least one of the top-10 in Martinez . . . .”

If the Aggies were, perhaps, a tad snobbish in the description of their event, who could blame them? The Hoka Aggies––who were formerly the “Asics Aggies” who were formerly the “Reebok Aggies”––are arguably the premier running club on the PA/USATF XC circuit. What other club can boast three Olympians, seven National record holders, a National Club XC Championship (Women 2019), perennial victories at the Bay to Breakers 12K 13-man Centipede run (setting a world record in 1991 with their 26-legs snaking through the course in 37:40), and a running shoe sponsor! I’ve asked Jerome to see if he could get a sponsorship for the SPARTANS, but thus far he has only received some mild interest from a start-up company selling stool softeners and incontinence underwear at ReadySetGo.com

The old-timey SPARTANS will remember when this race was initially run on the Hoka Aggies’ home turf in Davis. It was moved to Shoreline for many years, and the SPARTANS were pleased to have a XC race in their own neighborhood. I wasn’t happy when the race was again moved because then my only knowledge of Martinez was the grimy site of the Shell Refinery visible from 680 with its massive, Roman Candle towers spewing billows of smoke and pitch over a hellish landscape. I imagined running through a veritable Valley of Ashes while sucking in the noxious fumes of the petroleum-tainted air.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the freeway turnoff eventually rolled into the bucolic village of Martinez, a little gem of a town nestled between the Carquinez Strait and the Alhambra Valley. Martinez was the home of renowned naturalist John Muir, the birthplace of Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio, and remains the source of pure Alhambra water. The city is one of the oldest in California, and even the occasional melancholy moan of the Amtrak train that runs along the edge of town adds to the homey atmosphere. Back in the day, this was a favorite race of SPARTAN Francisco Verduzco who would coax the team into lingering in town long enough to have lunch and savor its old town charm. Fond memories . . . .

But I digress. The XC run is a 4.2m, two-loop course around, over, and through the meadows, ponds, creeks, and marshlands of the Radke Martinez Regional Park. The pretzel-twisting path has some grass and paved-path running, but it is primarily a single-track trail run that is, fortunately, well guided with arrows and course directors. (I did manage to veer off course once, but was quickly corrected by a then-trailing Sal and Norm Cantwell.) Of great humor to the SPARTANS was one course director who acted like a teenage girl at a Taylor Swift concert every time he saw a SPARTAN runner: “Here come the Spartans!” he would yell. “Speed City! Tommie Smith! John Carlos! Go Spartans! Go Speed City!” We didn’t have the heart to tell the guy we’re not really connected to “Speed City”; instead, we just raised a fist in salute and jogged on.

The Martinez run is a flat, sea-level course, and one long stretch runs so close to the edge of the Bay you can hear the little waves lapping the shore. Well, in truth, the course is not totally flat; in fact, it has perhaps the most peculiar obstacle in XC racing: a steep, wooden arch bridge over Alhambra creek. When I saw this obstacle the first time I ran Martinez, I thought, “Oh look. A Japanese tea garden bridge. How adorable.” Then I reached this pace-busting, hump-of-a-bump and quickly renamed it, “Puto Puente!” The arch bridge is an echo of a once flourishing Martinez fishing village, and when the city was creating trails through the park in 1979, it had to install an arch bridge over Alhambra creek to allow the last active family fishing vessel to travel to and from the Bay. For Harriers, this is a bridge too far that creates troubled waters.

Well, it was a cool, gorgeous day to run underneath a blue-bird sky, but if Kurt, Art, and Sal were part of a centipede, they would be the butt-end of the bug. Nevertheless, they finished and picked up their Hoka hat swag bag at the finish line, and they could also say that they once raced against the 2010 U.S. National Marathon champion. Yes, leading the field was 41-year-old Sergio Reyes who last January won the USA Masters Cross Country title by nearly a minute. Sergio pulsed through the circuit like an electron, setting a new course record, covering the 4.2 miles in 19:43 (that’s a 4:42 mile pace!). That’s just a wee bit faster than the Three Spartaneers: Sal (40:46); Kurt (41:11); Art (46:34).

The Three Spartaneers returned to their cozy green-lawn encampment to watch the Open Men’s race, chat with familiar harriers, and listen to the Aggie tunes pumping from the loud speakers. It was another great day filled with memories, or, as the Buzbee Boys are fond of saying, “It’s a celebration of Life!”

And speaking of “The Buzbee Boys,” the following day was the Senior Track Meet in Hayward and both Mike and Pat were there scooping up heavy medals along with me and SPARTAN Brian Conroy. It was especially heartwarming to see Pat running the track once again. Maybe we didn’t put a scare into the Hoka Aggies in Martinez, but we sure kicked some ass in Hayward!     Vamos a Correr,                         reported by Kurt Gravenhorst

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China Camp XC – October 8, 2022

– Reported by Kurt Gravenhorst   
             A 2022 record contingent of six spartan SPARTANS motored to San Rafael for the 4.2m Tamalpa XC Challenge––or what Tamalpa harriers simply refer to as “The Johnny” in memory of their running brother John Larson who, like our own SPARTAN brother, Paul Tjogas, unexpectedly passed away to run through the heavens much too soon.
            After both Art and Kurt, in true SPARTAN fashion, each managed to miss freeway turnoffs, the SPARTAN-mobiles were, nevertheless, soon rolling along the calm waters of San Pablo Bay and into China Camp State Park––so named for the Chinese-American shrimp fishing village that inhabited the area in the late 19th century. Gulf Oil once owned this land, and in the 1970s they tried to develop the 1,500 acres into condos and commercial real estate. Thankfully, the wise citizens rebelled and saved the open vistas of the bay, the salt marshes, the grassy meadows, and the rolling hills crowded with scrub oaks so we could have our run. But before Gulf Oil, the Chinese, and the Spaniards, the Miwok lived harmoniously with this land for centuries, and it was in Miwok Meadows that the SPARTAN harriers set their camp among the other tribal running teams.
            The Tamalpa Challenge is a favorite run for many on the XC circuit, and this was obvious by the line of parked cars that ran along both sides of the road for half a mile, making it a long trek to Miwok Meadows from your parking spot. An observer seeing the packs of harriers carrying blankets, tent awnings, yoga mats, and running bags along the road would think we were heading to Woodstock II. The SPARTANS heard the gun for the women’s race, and soon the women could be seen rising along the ridgeline in a kaleidoscopic ribbon of color––and one or two adrenalin bubbles pop in the belly . . . .
            The China Camp course begins on a fire-road which soon funnels you onto a romping, rolling, single-track trail through the wooded hills with occasional peek-a-boo views of the bay.  The course is not without roots, rocks, ruts, and rises; it’s a true cross country challenge. But it’s also rollicking good fun along a meandering, Le Mans type course full of twists, turns, hairpins, switchbacks and elbow bends.
            The six-pack of SPARTANS showed up at the starting line for the 10a gun, so the hardest part of the race was over. It was great to see Don Donoughe back from his mountain bike accident. Don’s young legs (63) led the SPARTANS with a stellar 34:16. Always steady top-gun performer Brian Conroy followed with a 37:32 in his second xc run this season. Sal Martinez, a ginseng root clenched between his teeth like a short stogie, continues his impressive season, stepping through the trail in 43:14. Kurt Gravenhorst has been saying, “Age is catching up with me,” for years. Well, let’s just say that Age finally caught him by the time he finished in 44:27. Albert Zimmerman broke his XC SPARTAN maiden as he continues on the comeback trail, covering the course in 45:09. Art Sanchez, in his fourth XC appearance despite his debilitating hip pain, fought through the course in 49:30.
            The Tamalpa tribe put out an artfully arranged banquet of après-race treats and, of course, a keg of beer. No more souvenir beer glasses, but Tamalpa is known for its beer-blast finish and the free brewskies remain part of the John Larson tradition. Some of you long-term SPARTANS may remember that the fastest time ever recorded at Tamalpa was Greg Burke running from the Finish line to the beer table.
            After a cool down for some and a small repast for others, the SPARTAN six-pack packed up and began the long walk back to the cars. On the way down the fire road they came upon Tamalpa running legend, Darryl Beardall who served as one of the course monitors. Darryl is simply called “The Legend,” and rightfully so. He has run in over 200 marathons, has won the Dispea twice (74 and 78) and has the following PRs: 5K: 14:45; 10k: 29:50; Marathon: 2:28:50; 50-miles: 5:18; 100-miles: 12:30. Now, at age 86, with a body beat down with ailments, Darryl was a poignant sight shuffling with his walker alone on the road. We greeted him as he approached, and when he reached us, he stopped. With his body leaning over his walker, he turned his head, flashed a toothless smile, and with a definite glint sparkling from both eyes asked, “How was it boys?”
            It was beautiful Darryl. Just beautiful . . .

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S F Golden Gate Park XC – Sep 11, 2022

As the saying goes, “What a difference a day makes.” Instead of burning through the searing heat of the Vacaville dust and dirt, the Spartans were blessed with the cool, misty, eucalyptus-seasoned air at the 36th annual Golden Gate Park Cross Country Open. Five Spartans toed-the-line––nearly doubling their Vacaville showing––for the 4-mile two-looper on this historic course where the Pacific Association XC Championships will be run in November.
The course traverses wet grass, rolling hills, soft dirt, sticky sand, and just enough splish-splash puddles to freckle the back of your singlet with mud. The iconic course begins with a wet run through Lindley Meadow, up a small embankment to John F. Kennedy Drive, and then a long, gradual downhill past Spreckles Lake; then a left on Chain of Lakes Drive until the cheery course monitors direct you to another wobbly meadow of grass leading to a stretch of sand and up a short, single-track trail that then opens up to wide path paralleling the Polo Fields. Follow that to a long, gradual uphill that eventually spills you out to John F. Kennedy Drive again and back to a downhill finish in Lindley Meadow. Now do that again, and you’re done.
It was a great race, a great day, and another great deposit in the old bank of fond and lasting memories. It was good to see and connect with many of the old timers like Jeff Hongo, Bill Brusher, Julios Ratti, and former Spartan Norm Cornwell. After the paparazzi finished with the Spartans, they headed back to the car, stopping for a time to watch the more relaxing activities of the Golden Gate Model Yacht Club guiding their ships languidly across Spreckles Lake. Now there’s an exercise that requires no warm up––just an all day cool down . .
–  Reported by Kurt Gravenhorst
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