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)
This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.