The Run Wild 5k is now in its 11th year, one of the oldest trail races in the area and held at Sesqui State Park. The race goes to benefit Richland Northeast track and cross country, and is directed by coach Ginger Belka. It is unique as the open 5k race is followed by a regular high school cross country meet running the same course.
Although Sesqui is almost in my backyard, and I train there all the time, it is like a curse for me to race. Ginger’s other race in Sesqui, the post new years Resolution 10k, has produced some of my most prodigious suckage. I fell and had the wind knocked out of me one year, and the following two years I just bonked out and slogged out some serious slowness. My only moment of glory in Sesqui was in 2010, where I blue shoed an injured JB in route to a 19:40. This was the old finish line, which I think made the course a tad short though. In 2011 there had been a dry spell, turning the sandhills of Sesqui into a total beach. I was nursing a piriformis injury, but basically just fell apart and recorded one of my slowest 5ks in the past couple of years.
This year I was pretty close to 100 percent, though with marathon training in full gear, my legs start to feel a little dead with the ramped up mileage. Plus i had the specter of a 20 miler looming the next morning. I got to the race site about45 min ahead of time. Although there was a decent crowd, there were few of the regulars that share my obsessive racing addiction. The Code has gone back into hiding (perhaps after being shamed at the Eagle 5k?) and I new Angel was probably headed back up to York to do the 10k he does there. That would normally mean a wide open age group for yours truly, but Derek Gomez is winding down his tri season and said he was turning out for this one. Gomez used to be in the same ballpark as myself, if slightly faster, though apparently he has turned into a total beast in the past year with all the tri training. Ive seen him go way sub 19 in most of the tri’s, which still eludes me on a certified course. I figured maybe I could keep him in sight in this one.
Other than Gomez, Team Vowles, Team Holt, James Hicks, J-Reeves, Dina, Alex P, Rocky, the Hartleys and Sarah B were on hand. Met Travis Cowan, who Ive seen at a few races and ran the Resolution preview run ages ago. I think that run was the first time I recall seeing mr rainbow tights himself, Ramsey Makhuli.
Ran a warm up mile from the finish line backwards on the course, so I could mark where to throw down the blue shoe kick. I could already feel the Sesqui curse kicking in. Legs felt like lead, despite the unbelievably cool temps (mid 60’s).
The course is well known to me: about 100 meters of open field, bottlenecking into a quarter mile of tight trail, followed by wide open firebreak trail until mile 2. Mile 3 is almost all single track until you break into a quarter mile finish of open field and trail beside the lake.
The start to this race is pretty close to a sprint. Basically everyone blasting away to try and avoid getting hung up in the bottleneck of the access path to the firebreak trail. I got a little behind, so I spent most of the access path jockeying for position and trying to dodge everyone that decided going into oxygen debt in the first 100 meters was a good race strategy. Apparently a lot of Usain Bolt fans in this race. I finally reached the firebreak, which just absolutely sucks for the first mile. Its not steep, but just relentless climb. Thankfully the sand was slightly less beach like this year, but not packed down like the year of the 19:40. I remember passing Bri Hartley, an 11 year old that is already near elite status at that age. I looked ahead and could barely see Gomez, who had left me for dead immediately. The crowd cleared out with all the fast guys forming a small group way ahead, and the rest of us mortals in a huge pack behind. Heading up the slow pack was a teenage kid and myself. I hit the first mile at 6:27, which is not too bad for the uphill and soft trail. I was laboring harder than I like, but then again, I was fighting the curse. The next mile rolls a little but flattens out quite a bit. The kid has decided to make this a total pissing match, a generational war. Challenge accepted.
I can tell the kid is hurting a bit but he has decided that the shame of getting beat by the albino Sasquatch is too much to bear. He surges at times but I stick to him like glue. He keeps looking back and boxing me out at every turn, probably wondering who let this rabid bear out of the zoo. Of course all this boxing out stuff is fueling the dark side of the blue shoes. What does suck though is that Im not exactly on cruise control either. Getting the momentum of every step sucked up by sand isnt exactly motivational. They say anger can be a motivator , but so is fear. Fear comes in many forms, but none is quite so frightening as the prospect of being chicked by an 11 year old. I start to hear some cheers for Bri uncomfortably close behind me. I dont dare look back , but I start getting paranoid that maybe she’s just drafting in my considerable wake, biding her time to shame me. We near the mile 2 marker, which the volunteer calls out at 13 flat, and then kid does a mini surge to cut me off just as we enter the single track. By this time I’m hurting pretty bad, but I know the end is coming soon. I attempt to pull a pass a few times, but kid is looking back and matching my every move. The trail is just too tight to try and go rogue into the woods to jump in front. Plus, Im not about to waste energy at this point. We pass the half-mile to the finish point that I had marked from my warm up. I can only imagine the visual of this teenager with a beast breathing down his neck. One of the volunteers knows the kid and says to kick it in, “your parents are right up ahead!”. This apparently spikes some adrenaline and kid blasts ahead into the clearing for the last quarter mile, basically starting to sprint. I’m pretty wiped out, but I am not about to get blue shoed here. Plus, the ghost of Bri was still haunting me. So I throw down….hard. Someone shouts we can break 20, so I tell kid to let’s get it. But apparently his objective #1 is to beat this damn old man on his back. So, I enter a new world of pain as I pull a Spinal Tap and turn it up to 11. And kid is still hanging on …until he starts suddenly puking his guts out. He pulls off to the side, and I should be feeling pangs of guilt for the kid embarrassing himself in front of his family and the crowd in the finishing stretch. But the dark side has taken over, and all I can think is VICTORY IS MINE. Apparently I am an evil person. I still have 50 meters to go, and unfortunately I can see 20 minutes is going to be just out of reach. I manage to burn whatever fumes i have left to cross the line in 20:11, 12th overall, 2nd in AG. Evidently, the kick was absolutely necessary, because as soon as I look up from my gasping, here comes Bri at 20:25, winning first female. Nothing like the pride of beating two middle schoolers. Way to go , Blue Shoes.
OJ Striggles won in an impressive 16:45, while John Charlton placed third (first masters), followed by Eddie Vergara, George “Amplified Athletics” Simpson and Gomez. Gomez ran an 18:25, so dude could probably break 18 on a road course now. He and Yerger are now completely out of my league, I guess. Another small group finished in the 18:40’s, but they are the last people before me, explaining why I couldn’t see anybody ahead in the last mile and a half. Sarah Blackwell had an impressive 2nd place showing. Other age groupers include both of the Vowles, Jennifer Reeves, Travis Cowan, Cheryl Outlaw, the Holts and Rocky.