Christmas Relays – 2014

Put this race on your calendar next year. It will only be one week after the USATF Cross Country Nationals, so we’ll all be in good shape for it.

Sunday was a glorious day for running. The rain stopped. The skies were clear and the air had that fresh scent that only happens after a cleansing rain. It’s been seven years since I had done a Christmas relay race and I’m betting that it has been at least that long for other Spartans. It is easy to pass on this race since it happens at such a busy time of year. There’s always a party the night before that makes getting up the next morning hard. But if you do, it is well worth it.

This is probably the most fun race of the year. At any time during the race, 3/4 of the runners are not racing. Most are warming up, warming down or milling around the finish line/passing zone. There is a festive party like atmosphere that was enlivened by the 21st Amendment Brewery truck which dispensed two beers (included in the entry fee) to all runners over 21. There was also a food truck if you wanted breakfast or lunch.

The course was not as flat as I remembered it. The first mile is uphill, but not too bad since the adrenalin is pumping. You can make up time on the downhill portion of the second mile. The third mile is an ever so slight uphill that gradually saps your momentum. There is a bit of a reprieve on the fourth mile, which is mostly flat with a little bit of downhill. The last half mile of the 4.464 mile course is an uphill that slows even the fastest runners.

I ran the first leg in the middle of the pack and passed off to Mike Buzbee, who passed about 20 runners to move us up. Sal Martinez, who was the last minute replacement for Art Sanchez, ran a fine third leg to keep us in good position. Francisco Verduzco anchored and was able to hold off the Tamalpa B team.

We finished third out of five teams in our 60+ division. Tamalpa’s A team was first in 2:03. Second went to the Mad River runners, a team of former standouts at Humboldt State, in a time just under 2:16. Our time was 2:23 and Tamalpa B was 2:29. Overall, we were 140th place out of 208 teams.The highly desirable Christmas relay mugs went to Tamalpa’s A team. This is based on a formula that awards mugs to the top 20% of teams (based on the number of teams that finished the previous year). With only five teams in our division this year, the mugs will only go to the first place team again next year.

Keep Running. Have a Happy Holidays and Goooooo Spartans! – Paul Togas

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USATF Pacific Association Cross Country Championships – 2014

Six Spartans toed the line for the masters race. There was Mike Buzbee, Art Sanchez, Nick Butterfield, Sal Martinez, Francisco Verduzco and myself. We did well enough to secure 4th place (out of 8 teams) in the overall standings for the 60+ division. For the championship race, it appears that we finished 5th or 6th depending on whether Tamalpa enters a B team. My unofficial tally is as follows:

Tamalpa – 10
Empire – 13
Tamalpa B – 38
Golden Valley – 45
West Valley Joggers and Striders – 49
Spartans –50
Buffalo Chips – 70
If we take out the Tamalpa B team, we’re still a couple of points behind WVJS and Golden Valley. We’re close.

It’s always great seeing all the familiar faces (some who only come for the PA championships) and going out to lunch afterwards. For Mike and I, there was the added bonus of seeing George Wright, our sponsor and mentor for the New Ways Athletic Club more than 40 years ago at Chico State.

In case you missed or if you want to relive it, videos for all three PA championship races are on You Tube. You can find them at . Go Spartans! – Paul

This usually closes the season for us but this year no one wants the season to end just yet, at least until we can do the Christmas Relays. Who is up for that? It is on Sunday, December 14th. Pre-registration deadline is Dec 6. Four person teams. Each relay leg is 4.46 miles. Cost before Dec 6 is $72 per team (without t-shirts) and $120 per team (with t-shirts). Registration after Dec 6 is $96 per team (no shirts). So if you are up for it, the second question is do you want to spring extra $ for the t-shirt?

Go Spartans! – Paul

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USATF Pacific Association Cross Country Finals Course – 2014

“What better place is there to be on Sunday morning than in a beautiful park in one of the greatest cities in the world watching cross country.” I didn’t make that up, that’s what our race announcer said and apparently a lot of people agreed. Over five hundred runners toed the line in three separate races. And lots of people came to watch the runners inaugurate the course to be used for next year’s National Club Cross Country Nationals. The race t-shirts showed a bucket list of three races, this year’s 2014 PA championships (with the box next to it checked), 2015 PA Championships and 2015 National Club Championships (boxes unchecked). We’ll be running this course for a while so get used to it.

The race starts near where the 2006 Club Nationals race started. This area used to be called Speedway Meadow. This area is host to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and has been renamed Hellman Hollow after the passing of Warren Hellman, the sponsor of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. The finish is near the southwest end of the Polo Field roughly 1/2 mile from the start. Our first dilemma upon arriving was trying to choose where to set up our tent. After checking out both start and finish areas and noting that no one was set up at the start, we decided to camp near the finish where everyone else was camped. Registration check-in, t-shirt pickup and water are close by, but it is a 1/2 mile walk to the start after peeling off your sweats and putting on your racing shoes. We had to run an abnormally long straightaway to the finish and one wonders if the start and finish could have been closer together, especially after seeing the segments on the course map added up to 10.4 kilometers. However, after running the race and comparing times from last years race, it would appear that the course is 10.0 kilometers.

The start at Hellman Hollow is great. It is wide with good footing and almost 400 meters long before it starts to narrow. The course takes a counterclockwise turn around the polo field dirt track, which is approximately 3/4 mile long and then heads back past the starting line along the north side of Hellman Hollow. Just about when you feel yourself get into a rhythm, the bumpy ground here takes you out of rhythm. Then it is a near hairpin turn where you reach a dirt trail that parallels Kennedy drive. This is a different portion of the same dirt trail that we run for the regular season race. There is a trail that we take during the regular season race between where everyone goes to cheer us on the backside of the course (regular season) to where the trail comes into Kennedy Drive for the last short stretch before the finish of the regular season loops. It is slightly uphill and difficult. For this course, we get to run that trail backwards and it is a lot more fun that way. When we get to that point where everyone congregates to cheer, we veer right across Lindley Meadows to the trail paralleling Kennedy Drive. This a much better crossing as it is more level and easier to negotiate than that diagonal hill crossing that we usually do during the regular season. From there the course is the same as the regular season course. A jaunt down the trail alongside Kennedy Drive and then the twisty sandy portion through the forest area and then the narrow grassy area and log jump. Instead of veering left and snaking up the hill, we go right and climb the hill (which is the way we used to do it on the regular season course). We then circle around the outside of the Polo Field until we reach the midpoint and then cross in and run on the track. After 1/4 lap, we veer left (at exactly the same point we left the track on the first loop) and then head out Hellman Hollow and repeat the loop. On the second loop after we come into the track, we follow the track all the way around to the finish. There is probably close to 1/2 mile left at this point. Even when you get to the final straightaway, there is still more than 300 meters left and you have to resist the urge to sprint early. Saw a lot of people shoot their wads too soon on that final straightaway.

Overall, I thought it was a good course. A little bit longer than the regular season course. Slightly faster, but not as fast as you would think as there are plenty of things on the course to upset your rhythm and momentum. This is an excellent spectator course. There is one spot on the course where you can see the runners pass by six times and by moving around a little bit, you can see them up to ten times (during a 10k race). Results have been posted on the PA website. I found some race photos on the Empire ( and Trkac ( websites. Those mainly feature their runners, but if you look you can find Spartans too.

Go Spartans! – Paul Tjogas

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Spartans Fun

Sunday, part of my bike ride took me along the westerly side of San Francisco’s Lake Merced. Memories of Spartan teams competing there in many Christmas Relay came flooding back. The imperceptible downhill at the start and on the backside, bringing the “I’m doing great!” feeling. Then the long rise back to the finish, bringing, “uh oh!” Having Pat point out all the old college stars and Olympians.  Lunch afterwards and recounting the “almosts”.

Nothing like the good old days. But … these are the good old days. All we have to do is put in the effort and then wait a few years.

For our installment on this year’s good old days, the Spartans club membership renewal has been completed so we continue as part of the Pacific Association of the USA Track and Field Association. Thank-you for your membership fee contributions – Paul Togas, Kurt Gravenhorst and Francisco Verduzco.

We may now compete again in the fall USATF cross country series.
Be sure to go to our race listings to see PAUSATF events through June, that you may want to enter.

You must be a USATF member to participate. Renew now at

Hope to see you at the Monday/Wednesday evening interval workouts at Lincoln High School. Remember, the short, intense bursts of interval workouts are the best training tools. And the camaraderie makes it fun … almost.

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February already! Did you renew your membership in the USA Track and Field, Pacific Association? If you plan to compete in any USATF events, you need to be a member. In addition to being able to compete in events such as the fall cross country series, you receive discounts on various running related gear as well as the monthly magazine. To complete your renewal, go to Remember to include your Spartans club affiliation.

The club membership is not yet renewed. Usually a club member pays for the renewal, since we collect no dues. If you compete in some USATF events and haven’t paid the club membership for a few years, why don’t you email me,, to arrange for payment of the 2014 dues?

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It’s time to wish all of you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Again, the Spartans had a fine year, doing track work-outs, trail runs, local races and participating in the PAUSA cross country series. We set no world records and had no spectacular wins, but, after all these years, we are still going at it.

Sadly, one of our faithful track work-out buddies is no longer with us. At age 48, Tom Gardin passed away from a heart attack while on his morning run. Tom was one of the better south bay racers. He was also an accomplished bicyclist. In all our fun exchanges, mostly about athletic endeavors, we never learned until after his passing that Tom, a computer guy, was also an accomplished guitarist. He was another fun, interesting and accomplished work-out friend that always brightened our day with his presence. We miss you Tom.

It’s friends like Tom that make it a pleasure to go to the track all these years. As we age, it gets more difficult to continue an exercise program. Here are my wishes that in the new year you will be able to maintain and adjust your exercise program so that it works for you and brings you health and joy through the new year. Hopefully, it will also bring you renewed and new friendships as well.

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The time is near for you harriers to get  in your closets, find those dusty X-C shoes and go out and get dirty.

If you haven’t registered with the Pacific Association of USA Track and Field, it’s time now; go online to

The Spartans Running Club is registered with PAUSAT&F for 2012, club number 38-0154.


Date Race Location
**08/18/12 12th Annual UC Santa Cruz XC Challenge Santa Cruz
**08/25/12 20th Annual Phil Widener Empire Open Santa Rosa
**09/01/12 2nd Annual Rebels XC Challenge Sacramento
   09/09/12 8th Annual Garin Park XC Challenge (note Sunday race date) Hayward
**09/15/12 NorCal XC Challenge Redding
   09/23/12 27th Annual Golden Gate Park Open (note Sunday race date) San Francisco
**09/29/12 14th Annual Presidio Challenge San Francisco
**10/06/12 4th Annual Willow Hills XC Open Folsom
**10/13/12 15th Annual Shoreline Open Mountain View
**10/27/12        3rd Annual Ancil Hoffman Challenge Sacramento
    11/04/12     17th Annual John Lawson Tamalpa Challenge (note Sunday race date) Marin Headlands
**11/18/12 27th Annual PA Cross Country Championships (note Sunday race date) San Francisco
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Rebels Cross Country Challenge Recap

The Rebels tried to usher us into the 21st century with the recordkeeping and scoring of the race. It was a partial success at best. Chip timing, which is almost ubiquitous at marathons and road races, made its first appearance at a PA cross country event. Also, same day registrants used a computer to complete their entry instead of pen and paper. The first hint that something was amiss came during the Men’s Open race when they announced some of the masters race runners, including our own Steve Radigan as finishing the Open race. I found a number of disparities in the posted results and I am sure there are more. For example:

· I finished just slightly ahead of another runner, probably less than a half a second, yet the next runner is listed eleven seconds behind me.

· Carlos Siquieros Sr. is not listed in the results even though he ran and finished.

· Julius Ratti is shown as finishing two minutes ahead of me.

· Evidently, in the last week since the Empire Open, Nick celebrated three birthdays because his age was listed as 57. Although, maybe Nick is luckier than a Tamalpa runner who had ten years subtracted from his age and is now a Masters runner instead of a Senior competitor.

The results did not list team affiliations for any of the runners, so trying to figure out our team placing was more challenging than usual. I’m fairly certain that our Super Seniors got third, just 3 points behind Buffalo Chips. It looks like Tamalpa was able to scrape together three runners to take first. The Seniors probably finished sixth (but who can be sure), behind Empire, Rebels, Golden Valley Harriers, WVJS and Pamakids. It turns out that we took fifth last week at Empire (better than my initial estimate of sixth) because Pamakids only had three PA registered runners instead of four. Let’s see if they clear that up this week.

Otherwise, the Rebels put on a good race. The course was well marked and there were lots of volunteers to make sure that no one strayed off of the course. The start was not terribly wide, but it was not congested either. The course was more dusty than advertised and footing was a bit dicey and rocky during the first mile. However, the only shade was in the first mile. The course was relatively flat except for the hill at the beginning (and also at the end, since we came back the same way) and a hill at about the 1-1/2 mile mark. They even had a water stop (staffed by the Wheezer) and a Port-a-Potty at the 2-1/2 mile mark. Overall, it is a fast course.

The women’s race was only 5k (instead of the 7k for the men’s races). Their course was the same, except for the out and back portion (in the fourth mile of our race) was deleted from theirs. As I am writing this and trying to recap the women’s race, I just noticed that they have recalled the results from the PA website.

It was a good day for Spartan harriers. Everyone got PR’s for the course. The weather was warm, but not brutally hot. Sal Marquez was our only Masters entrant and first runner to cross the line. The Seniors team was comprised of Nick, Sal Martinez, Art and myself. Super Seniors team was Steve, Kurt, Lino and Cisco. It was good to see Lino out for his inaugural race. It was also good to see Leroy out there cheering for us. He had a medical emergency last Wednesday (the doctors still don’t know exactly what happened) and was not able to run. I know it lifted my spirits before the three mile mark to have Leroy cheering me on.

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Empire Open Recap

The results are now posted on the PAUASTF website The preliminary indications are that our Seniors team took sixth behind Empire A, WVJS, Pamakids, Tamalpa and Empire B.

It was overcast and cool as the Spartan chariot headed up towards the Redwood Empire. We arrived about an hour early for the 9:00 am Masters race, which was the first race of the day. The sun didn’t really come out until after our race, so it was somewhat cool, although humid. The course was more beautiful than I remembered but much rockier then I remembered. The scree fall at doublecross dam was not angled towards the bottom as before, so it was much steeper and more treacherous. The blackberry bushes along the dirt path next to the lake have grown larger and narrowed the path in some places to single track. (Note to berry pickers – don’t pick any blackberries in the area adjacent to the start line, Art and I pissed there).

Five intrepid Spartans toed the starting line, Art, Nick, Sal, myself and Sal’s nephew, also named Sal. Sal’s nephew, who is 42, was the first Spartan to cross the finish in 22:19. He would be a fine addition to our team, if we had four other teammates to run with him. Ex-Spartan, Jose Pina, running for WVTC, won the masters race for the second week in a row. WVTC only had four masters runners, not enough for a full team. If we could get a few other masters (maybe Tom Gardin), maybe we could entice Jose to come back and run for us.

The newly minted 50 year old duo from Empire, Don Stewart and Ty Strange were the first two seniors in. They finished a second apart. Arturo Rodriguez led the Super Seniors and Carl Petersen triumphed in a tight Veterans race in which the first three finishers were 8 seconds apart.

Nick continued to improve over his 2010 performances, as he finished almost two minutes ahead of last year’s time. Sal is holding the line as he finished in approximately the same time as last year. Art is coming back from an injury and doesn’t have the necessary endurance yet, but it was good for him to get a race under his belt and start to get ready for the upcoming races. The last time I ran Empire was five years ago and I was about 1-1/2 minutes slower, but I was encouraged that I beat a couple runners who had beaten me at Santa Cruz and finished closer to others.

The nice thing about being the first race, is that you watch the other races and not have to worry about your race or warming up for it. The Open Men’s race was next and it was over before you knew it. Jonathan Charleworth (WVTC) won the race in 17:24. Aggies runners swept the next three places and looked to be well on their way for a team victory, until their 4th runner came in 17th. It was up to Jeff Hongo to complete the Aggies Open team and he finished 30th. We’ll see if that holds up.

The women’s race was last. Julie Nacouzi was the runaway winner. Nacouzi, who is only 17 years old, was the western regional champion and third in the National Footlocker Cross Country championship for high school girls. She matriculated at nearby Montgomery High School (less than a mile from Spring Lake Park), but somehow was representing Buffalo Chips (go figure). Chris Lundy, from Impala was second and Valerie Young was third overall and first master. Sarah Tabbutt was the first senior women and newly minted Super Senior Sharlet Gilbert (there’s a blast from the past) was first in her division.

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Santa Cruz Cross Country Challenge Recap

The results are already posted on the PA website. The preliminary indications are that the Super Seniors finished in a tie for second with Buffalo Chips and the Seniors team took sixth.

The day started ominously enough. It was overcast and drizzly as we headed up the hill on highway 17 to Santa Cruz. Traffic slowed to a crawl near Santa Cruz as we encountered an overturned vehicle. It was hard to tell what happened, but it appears that multiple vehicles were involved and that ex-Spartan Jeff Hongo’s vehicle was one of those disabled by the accident. Thankfully, Jeff was unhurt. However, he didn’t make it to the race.

It’s a good thing they separated the Men’s Open and Master’s race, because it was a really big turnout. So big, that all the parking lots were full. The women’s race got started while we were still looking for parking space. Newly minted 50 years Linda Somers Smith won the four mile race in a time of 23:04. Her central coast colleague, Nicole Hagobian finished 2nd in 23:18. Most of the top finishers were youngsters from Impala and New Balance Silicon Valley teams. However, it was impressive to see some of older women runners taking the youngsters to school. Christine Kennedy (age 56) ran 25:40 and Sara Freitas (age 53) ran 26:10. That’s how fast you had to run to finish in the top 3 for women’s seniors. Former Spartan, Clare Saxton ran 25:44 to finish 13th overall.

We had seven Spartans toeing the line when the verbal command (which took some of us by surprise) came to start the race. It was the usual narrow start, but not as congested as usual, since the open and master’s races were divided. Ex-Spartan Jose Pina, who may have been the unlikely beneficiary of Jeff Hongo’s accident, won the masters race in 22:35. Rebel Rousers followed closely behind in second and third. Don Stewart, another newly minted 50 year old won the senior’s division in 23:21. Don Porteous, was the first super senior in 27:30 and the ageless Hans Schmid was first in the Veteran’s with a 28:22. The race went well for most of the Spartans. We’re not as fast as we once were or now want to be. In most cases, being able to toe the line is victory. Steve Radigan, who has trouble running faster than nine minute miles in training, ran sub 7:40 pace and was nearly two minutes faster than last year. Nick Butterfield, whose been dabbling in myofascial release to combat injuries, was also nearly two minutes faster than last year. Sal Martinez, was there to defend his home course and he also ran faster than last year. I didn’t run Santa Cruz last year, but was only five seconds slower than my time from two years ago. Toeing the line was definitely a victory for Kurt considering that he missed all of 2010 with knee problems. Hopefully, there are no ill effects for Kurt’s knee afterwards. Our last two finishers made important contributions for both our teams. Cisco, was our fourth super-senior. Although he didn’t score for our team, he beat the third runner from Buffalo Chips. That bumped the Chips score up by one more point and allowed us to tie them for second place. As the fifth Super Senior, Leroy as available to backfill our seniors team. If we had not had him, we would finished 8th, behind two other teams (Pamakids and Golden Valley Harriers) who had three person teams that placed higher than our first three runners.

Thanks to Carol George (Kurt’s girlfriend) for snapping pictures of us in the homestretch. It was great to look at ourselves running in full stride towards the finish line (as opposed to our tortured strides in the middle of the race). Finally, a fond farewell to Sam Hirybayashi. Most of you probably know that he succumbed to cancer (at the age of 84) during the offseason. It just wasn’t the same, not being able to see his smiling face at the end of the masters race. What an inspiration he was.

The day of racing concluded with the open men’s race. Strawberry Canyon Track and Adidas Transport appeared to dominate the team competition. There was scintillating stretch sprint between Kevin Pool of the Rebels and Daniel Tapia of Transports for the individual title. It was awesome to watch how fast they were running. Pool prevailed in a time slightly over 20 minutes. Lenin Zapata (son of former West Valley great Darryl Zapata) finished third. The festivities concluded with the award’s presentation. Thanks to Santa Cruz Track Club for putting on a first class race. They do a good job year in and year out.

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