Runner of the Month: Steve Whitson

By Noreene Matsuda

Congratulations to our new Runner of the Month, Steve Whitson! He has been a member of SCRR for 17 years, when Rob Harris was the club president.

Steve was born in Buffalo, New York. After the intensely cold Blizzard of ‘77, his mom announced to the family, “We are moving to California!” After his family settled in Orange County, he began running track as a junior at El Modena High School. He embraced the competition and camaraderie, and the team soon became his second family.

At the age of 17, Steve’s teammate Greg invited him to church. This was the moment he turned his life over to Christ. Running and joining the church were the two most significant personal choices he made in his life, and both are still positive factors for him today.

One of his most memorable running moments was during his senior year in high school during a 10-mile race. Steve was running a consistent pace with two and a half miles to go. Then something unfamiliar began to overtake him. It was the “runner’s high,” that feeling of euphoria, something he had never experienced before. He surged ahead with each step until he crossed the finish line, passing runners he had never beaten before. Then, his coach commented excitedly, “Where did you come from, Whitson?”

Steve enjoys spending time with his wife Jean and two sons, Micah and Joel. You may have seen them at club runs and races. Not only did they encourage Steve to start running after experiencing some health issues, they all started running as a family. Not surprisingly, running is always a topic of discussion at the Whitson’s dinner table.

Other hobbies Steve enjoys are watching football and baseball. Even though he left New York years ago, he is a diehard Buffalo Bills fan. Once a Bills fan, always a Bills fan! On the other hand, his favorite West Coast team is the Los Angeles Angels.

Welcome back to SCRR, Steve! And thank you for letting us get to know you.

Photo courtesy of Sherri Ellerby

But I’m a Runner – Why Should I Do Coveathlon?

By Sherri Ellerby & the 2019 Coveathlon Team

Have you ever wished that it was 10 degrees cooler on some of those hot Thursday night summer club runs?  Well, the SCRR Coveathletes enjoyed those lovely temperatures each time they swam and ran at Newport Dunes.  I think South Coast Roadrunners has been an official competitive team at Coveathlon, the annual summer race series, for four years now.  Most teams that compete are typically triathlon teams. I am proud to report that we are the only running club in the mix of athletes.

Coveathlon is a Thursday evening multisport event that begins with a 1K swim, followed by a 5K run, at Newport Dunes in Newport Beach.  There are 6 races total, organized in a 2 weeks on, 1 week off pattern. This year it began on June 20 and ended on August 8. Participants can do both the swim and run or opt for just one of the disciplines.  Or grab a friend and make it a relay. If you do the whole event, you earn 2 points for your team. A single discipline finish earns 1 point, and relay teams earn 2 points per team. However, if you are particularly strong and fast, more points are awarded for placing in the top four overall in your ten-year age group or in the top three overall for the single sports and relays.

One of the best aspects of Coveathlon is the team competition.  There are usually three really huge teams consisting of dozens of athletes, and the rest are small in size, like SCRR, with less than a dozen members regularly competing each week.  At the finale race, a fun awards dinner banquet on the beach caps off the series. That’s when we find out who were the overall, age group, and team winners. For the first time ever, Natalie Barrad, the race director, decided to have prize money for the top big team AND small team.  And if you haven’t heard the news, SCRR won the small team competition!! We were so excited to earn this award, especially since we were always trailing a few points behind the other small team leader. We won $200 and a large bottle of Absolut Vodka. We are planning to use the money and vodka for a celebratory party for all participating Coveathletes.  “Runners can swim, too!” I happily announced while receiving the award for the team.

If you have been on the fence about participating in Coveathlon, let me start off by saying, all of you with ANY competitive swim background will do just fine or really well at this event – no matter how long it’s been since you’ve been swimming.  But here are some more insights from this year’s SCRR Coveathletes to help you make your decision.

SCRR Coveathlon Team
Photo courtesy of Sherri Ellerby

What is the best part of Coveathlon for you?

Coveathlon is a really fantastic race series! Having never swam an open water race before I had my trepidations. Any worries quickly went away! It’s an incredibly fun and relaxed environment; everyone is there to do their best while supporting each other in the process. 

My favorite part is the community focus. Coveathlon is a race by the community and for the community. People of all ages and skill levels come together to enjoy the summer evenings. For me it was a family affair as I competed with my younger brother. And this year SCRR won the small team category for the cumulative race series. I was also excited that I ran a personal best 5K at 30 min.

Claire Pukszta

Why did you decide to try Coveathlon again this year?

I tried the Coveathlon again this year because it is great for a few reasons.  It is a great way to balance out running. It is a great venue with a small and less intimidating friendly crowd for us runners to try out swimming as a competition.  It is also a whole lot of fun to celebrate with fellow SCRR runners, as well as to practice swimming with them.

Mike Connors

How many seasons have you done Coveathlon?

I started participating in Coveathlon since 2015, when the race was at Crystal Cove.  It was beautiful, but to be perfectly honest, I prefer the race at Newport Dunes because I don’t spend the whole day on Thursday filled with dread about swimming in the ocean anymore.  I look forward to the race every summer and participate in as many races as possible. I’ve been really into the age group competition aspect the last few years (one year I won my age group and scored some sweet swag as well as an entry into the following years series.) But overall, it’s a FUN community event. I can’t wait for the 2020 season!

Kirsten Hirneisen

What’s the hardest part about Coveathlon?

The hardest part for me was the transition from swimming to running.  There are a lot of tri techniques to reduce transition time, and I have none of them. Next year, I will focus on shoes and socks. Transitioning from water to running involves sandy feet. I will need to find a way to keep the sand out of my socks before the run.

Derek Godfrey

Any memorable moments from Coveathlon?

I can’t think of specific memorable moments from this year other than really just enjoying the camaraderie of the group and supporting each other every week. I really enjoy being there and pushing myself to do better each week and to mingle with our other SCRR coveathletes. It’s fun watching our group grow and do well. I also love that Chloe is able to come out and watch, hopefully I am setting a good example for her!

Alanna Brown

Why should someone from SCRR consider doing Coveathlon?

It is a fun race series to add some variety to your summer training.  There are athletes of all abilities and you can make it as competitive or non-competitive as you want.  Teams earn points by athletes placing in their age group, but also for every team member that participates each race.  Therefore, no matter how fast or slow you are, you contribute to the team!  I really enjoy the run portion because the course has an out and back portion and you get to see your teammates and cheer them on.  Don’t worry if you are a slow swimmer, it just means that you get to see more people during the run

Vicki Ballon (AKA Panda)
SCRR Swimmers
Photo courtesy of Sherri Ellerby

What is the swim like?

The swim is long enough that it offers a good opportunity to put training points into practice to help you be a more efficient swimmer and less fatigued before you start the run (like how often to sight to make sure you stay on course, trying to breathe bilaterally as opposed to just one side, getting used to swimming in a wetsuit, in open water, etc).  

The course is pretty straightforward and even on a hot day wearing a wetsuit the temperature of the water didn’t bother me hardly at all.  The different wave times (based on age, gender) to start mean you can start wherever you are comfortable; in the front and get used to swimming in a crowd, or towards the back or side of the group to let the faster swimmers move past with minimal fuss.  

At first the swim made me a bit nervous but that passed quickly—it is fun to see how your results can (hopefully) improve from week to week and tie that in to the rest of the race! 

Ryan Vieau

What is so “fun” about Coveathlon?

When you show up on race evening, the first thing you notice is that everyone is smiling and having fun.  Why? As soon as you near the cozy beachside venue, you are greeted by at least a few from the hand-picked staff.  These are familiar faces that treat you like family whether you are a Coveathlon veteran or first timer. Very few, if any, are nervous or scared because the 1K swim is in the protected Back Bay and the 5K run is on an out-and-back path with plenty of staff, volunteers and lifeguards.  This is quite a departure from the original Cove series a few years back when the tagline read, “If the sharks don’t get you, the mountain lions will!”

The race itself is fun because the swim waves are separated by speed, age, and gender to keep the competition fair.  As you exit the water you are greeted by 100 screaming fans and volunteers, and even the race director with her iconic megaphone!  You are guided and cheered on the run all the way to the best water-station ever at the half-way point! You get to see and cheer for all the other participants as you pass in opposite directions on the run path.  The run to the finish is around the scenic Back Bay, where you are once again greeted by 100 screaming fans and participants.  
Come out for one or all six of these awesome events. I think I am in withdrawal until next June!

David Paul
SCRR Coveathlon Team after a race
Photo courtesy of Sherri Ellerby

In your opinion, what is the best reason to participate in a Coveathlon race?

For me, the best reason is that Coveathlon combines the two sports that I love into one race! Also, it’s a fun event to do in the summertime with friends and to support SCRR’s team effort. I will definitely be doing more Coveathlon races next year! 

Jackie Lee

What if you’re an injured runner?

You have lots of options to participate!  1) Swim only, 2) Swim + Walk the 5K, or 3) Grab a non-injured runner and relay.  All options get you a workout, a supportive race atmosphere, and free cookies, not to mention hanging with some of SCRR’s finest.  What’s not to love? For me, not being able to run for an extended period of time has, of course, limited my opportunities to race with my SCRR buddies, so even though my performance wasn’t stellar this year, it was awesome to be out competing with the team.  I’m already looking forward to next year, injured or not (though fingers crossed for the latter)!

Jessica Ayers
May Chih with her medals for completing the San Francisco Ultramarathon
Photo courtesy of May Chih

Destination Race: San Francisco Ultramarathon

By Amy Katz

For most people, running the San Francisco Marathon is challenging enough.

But club member May Chih decided to double the difficultly by running 52.4 miles through the City by the Bay.

She started the first 26.2 mile loop at 11:00 pm, then joined the other runners doing the marathon at 5:30 am for the second loop.

Start of the SF Marathon
Photo courtesy of May Chih

When I asked May what inspired her to sign up for the ultra, she shared this story:

A year ago when I came for the Fitbit shakeout fun run, I got to meet Dean Karnazes at the event. I knew about the ultra event at that time, having seen the “worth the hurt” medal years ago. He suggested that next time I go for the ultra. I responded, “maaaaaybe… in a few years”. Claire Gladstone completed the ultra last year and I got to congratulate her on her accomplishment. I went home after that weekend and told my husband all about it. He said to me, “you can do it!” Fast forward one year later, I got to buddy up with Claire and completed my first ultramarathon.

May with Dean Karnazes in 2018
Photo courtesy of May Chih

And while she said she would consider doing it again in the future, she won’t be running the ultra next year.

Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment, May!

Monthly Club Race: Track Mile

By Amy Katz

The annual track mile attracted a huge group of Roadrunners challenging themselves to run 4 laps as fast as possible.

Not only were there several PRs in the club, two members, Sherri Ellerby and Sue Zihlmann, both scored over 900 points! In addition, Jeanie Leitner, Mike Friedl, Mike Connors, and Bob Morris all scored over 800 points.

Joanna Pallo has continued to improve in every distance she races with a PR of 6:45 in the mile.

When asked how she’s able to keep improving year over year, she said staying consistent and pushing herself helps. Joanna likes doing informal speed workouts by pushing the pace during runs.

It’s never anything crazy, usually just 10K race pace or a little faster. I’ve found that I need rest days. My streaking days are probably behind me, at least for a while. And I do gym workouts a few times a week. That’s been the biggest change since being back to running.

Joanna Pallo

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the track mile! Our upcoming club races are the Surf City 10 (September 21), Halloween Terrifying Ten (October 27), Dino Dash (November 3), and Huntington Beach (Edison High School) Resolution Run 5K (December 15.)

See you at the races!

Joanna Pallo and other runners starting the track mile
Photo courtesy of Amy Dayao

Social Event: Victor’s 70th Birthday Party

Thank you to Barbara Eckes and Victor Gambone for opening up their lovely home to host the party.

Victor's 70th birthday party
Photo courtesy of Barbara Eckes
Victor with birthday cake
Photo courtesy of Barbara Eckes

Recipe Corner: Pumpkin Spice Air Fryer Baked Apples

By Amy Katz

This month’s recipe is courtesy of my friend Becky Striepe of the blog Glue & Glitter.

I love using my air fryer since it takes less time than an oven, and it doesn’t require pre-heating. It’s especially nice when preparing a small quantity of food.

And these delicious baked apples are a healthy seasonal treat. Each one is only 210 calories.

Pumpkin Spice Baked Apples
Photo courtesy of Becky Striepe


  • 4 apples – Gala or Fuji are great choices for this recipe
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice seasoning
  • 2/3 cup water


  1. Use a knife to core the apples, but don’t cut all the way through the bottom. Cut at a slight angle, so you end up removing sort of a cone of apple core from the center. Better to start with a shallow cut, then use a spoon to scoop out the seeds than to cut too deeply and accidentally go all the way through.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together all of the remaining Baked Apples ingredients, except for the water.
  3. Pour the water into a shallow, ovenproof dish that fits inside of your air fryer basket. Arrange the apples in the dish. Air fry at 340F for 15 minutes, or until the apples feel tender when you pierce with a sharp knife. If they’re not cooked through after 15 minutes (DO NOT SHAKE!), cook for another 2-3 minutes, and check on them again.
  4. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.

Note: Use tongs to gently remove the warm, baked apples from the air fryer basket.

Treasurer’s Report

By David Paul

Total Cash Balance, Beginning  4581.46
Cash Inflows 1096.61
Cash Outflows-First Thursday 304.85
Cash Outflows-RRCA Insurance
Cash Outflows-Banquet
Cash Outflows-Uniforms
Cash Outflows-Social Gatherings 96.81
Cash Outflows-Other 155.38
Net Change in Cash   540.20
Total Cash Balance, Ending 5121.66

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