Monday, October 17, 2011

Rise of the Gritty City Track Club!

Members of the mighty Gritty City Track Club of Pasadena
I recall casually talking to Alex Bruno last February at the Brea 8 km. He let me know his running group, the Gritty City Track Club, would be formally joining USATF, and I should expect to see them participating at some of the Grand Prix races. Well, that turned out to be a real understatement! The GCTC (see, the name has a great ring it to even when spelled as an acronym) has turned out to be one of the surprises of 2011, a small running group that is leading in Grand Prix participation along with Club Ed Running, Cal Coast Track Club and The Janes Elite Racing.

Leland Mah, Michael Cruz-Herrera, Antonio Pierola and Lucie Spender Murray (left to right) at the Semana Nautica 15 km, July 4, 2011
I particularly remember seeing the members of GCTC pull into the parking lot at the Semana Nautica 15 km, mentioning that they had the winner of the 15 km race in the car with them. As they say, it’s not bragging if you can back it up, and GCTC stand-out runner Mandy Grantz did win the race that day, finishing the 15 km in 55:37. Unknown to me was the fact that Grantz is also a 2012 Olympic Trials marathon qualifier, based on her winning 2:45:53 time in the Pasadena Marathon. And the very modest and humble Grantz was the fourth place finisher at the 2011 Road Mile Championships, with a time of 4:57, and her 1:17:37 half marathon was fast enough for a fourth place finish overall at the Long Beach Half Marathon, the 2011 USATF Southern California Half Marathon Championships race.
At the Santa Monica 5000: USATF Volunteer Alex Breckenridge (left) talks with Olympic trials qualifier Mandy Grantz (right) about pollen (just ask Mandy, she is the expert!). On the far right, Nicole Luque takes a break from scoring the Road Running Grand Prix
Another outstanding member of the GCTC is Nicole Luque. Luque, like Grantz, seems to be having the year of her life in running! Nicole won her age-group division at the Road Mile with a time of 5:34, and she just set another personal best with her 1:26:45 finish at the Long Beach Half Marathon. I was just as surprised when I spoke to Brian Panosian, the marketing coordinator for Generic Events, and he gave me the name of the elite athlete contact for the Santa Monica 5000: Nicole Luque! Not only is Nicole an outstanding, dedicated athlete, but she somehow finds time in her super busy schedule to lend a hand with various running organizations. In addition to the Santa Monica 5000, Nicole volunteered to take on the task of scoring the USATF Southern California Road Running Grand Prix, which has grown from a total of 389 runners in 2010, to 459 runners in 2011. And we still have one more race to go, the Dana Point Turkey Trot 10km, our 10 km Association Championships race!

Warming up at the South Pasadena High School, coach Choy Bacor (center)
So GCTC asked me if I would like to head up to Pasadena to join them for a Tuesday night workout at the beautiful South Pasadena High School, a great art-deco landmark high school with a very modern track. Choy Bacor lured me out of Culver City with an offer I never refuse: a challenging run followed by pizza and beer!

Michael Cruz-Herrera with a Santa Monica 5000 discount code
While I have heard that Pasadena weather can be hot and overwhelming at times, Tuesday night was as perfect a Southern California evening as you can imagine. After meeting up with the club, I opted for the mile repeat workout. At the starting line, I distinctly heard Alex announce he would be running around 1:40 a lap. I can report this was another Alex Bruno understatement, since I came through the first 400 meters in 1:32, with Alex and GCTC Vice-President John Burgos well ahead of me! In total we ran 4 miles, with 400 meter recovery jogs between intervals. In addition to the mile repeats, there was a slower workout for runners preparing for a marathon, and several other runners took off to do a hill workout. Whatever you want to do for a Tuesday evening run in Pasadena, GCTC seem to have people people ready to join in.

John Burgos - Vice President, Choy Bacor - Coach, Alex Bruno - President, Wayne Joness - LDR Chair,
Jason Wang - Marketing, Michael Cruz-Herrera - Secretary/Treasurer
The post-run feast was at a nearby Round Table Pizza, where I learned a little more about the group. GCTC was formed just a few years ago, in 2007, and some of the members have been running together since high school. This is a very friendly and supportive group, ready to carpool their way to races all over the southland. Alex Bruno is President, and John Bugos Vice-President, with Pascal (Choy) Bacor as coach. Other officers include Jason Wang, Marketing, and Michael Cruz-Herrera, Secretary/Treasurer. The group has competed in numerous local races, including the Road Running Grand Prix, as well as traveling to destination marathons. In fact coach Bacor will be running the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2012, after his 3:07:35 qualifying run at the somewhat ill-fated 2010 Camarillo Marathon. Choy: Thanks again for beer and pizza!

Post-run carbo feast at Round Table Pizza!
If you are in Pasadena and looking for a great track workout, you could not do better than to head over to South Pasadena High School around 6:00 pm to meet up with the Gritty City Track Club. And for those people training for a long distance competitions, the group also participates in organized Saturday long runs as well.

Members of the mighty Gritty City Track Club of Pasadena (plus LDR chair Wayne Joness)