Wild Hare is a Jekyll and Hyde race, beginning as a mountain bikers roller-coaster whip-de-do, then after the bluff dive transforming into a duel set of cow pastures. Early on, it's a game of push and pull on a single-track too narrow to pass for much of it, such that I'm stuck in the pace of the people in front of me, at least until an opening to squirt past here and there. Not that I mind being trapped in place. Without these limits, I'd likely be much faster than I should be going, and I'm already going too fast.
Not sure why I haven't felt very good of late, but I'm excited to be running with John Kuss today. It's been a long time. Ryan's also running with us. John and I go out quicker than usual for me and quickly slide to mid-pack as we rotated round the pond while Ryan tucks into our wake. John and I chat a bit and receive some unasked for feedback from who knows where, asking if we were gonna talk all day.
We incrementally increase pace as we pass one person or another. The twisting and rolling rhythm leans us one way then the other as we spin round the turns, faster and slower as we dip in and out each ditch. Somewhere about two miles along, I feel the need to back down, so I step aside to walk while John and Ryan glide past. I let 'em go for a few minutes while I walk, but can make out where they are for a while. I pick back up and continue, running slower, walking the little ups, running everything else, and slowly slip further and further behind. I need to be careful, more aware to stay within myself. The first 3 miles were way too fast and maybe I can get the buzz going again, but for now I need to stay easy and relaxed.
At the bluff I descend into the cow pastures, the path stays just inside the shade of the trees around the perimeter and up the cow chute. We used to take a direct path strait back up the bluff and immediately back down the dipsy-doodle mud chute, but Chris Russell is there to make certain we turn instead. Across the creek we enter the second field. It's a mile around and back to this same spot. Again the trail stays just inside the perimeter of trees, but this time we have a short set of mini rollers. I seem to have found my place as I'm no longer passing or being passed.
I exit the field section over a wire mesh and leaf covered pedestrian bridge. Entering the third and final equally different terrain type for the final two miles, we start with a high traverse with a few bridges that serve only to keep us at the same elevation where it would otherwise be impossible to have a trail for anything other than mountain goats. It's a very pretty section with good visibility for some distance, multi-colored leaves and pine needles covering everything, and a bit more roll than we had in the first section. The route could only have been created my a drunk mountain biker, as it seems undecided which way it should go, turning at places where I'd have otherwise gone strait. Inside of a mile from the end loop, we pop up to the fishing pond and camping area, where we turn and run around it before the barn tunnel into finish. I'm glad to be done with the first loop and equally pleased with my time (1:25) until I learn the winner does two loops in 1:40. All in all, I do better than I expected for all the walking I did, possibly on the strength of my first 3 miles
My new shorts are not working out too well and I'm soaking wet from sweat as well, so I quickly change shorts and shirt. I run the initial pond loop slower than I did last time, and feel much better for it. Turns out, I can run much more smoothly and consistently now that I'm not bombing the course. Feels good, at least, for a while. I have no idea where the boys are, but when I come into the mid-way station, Nimiye tells me Ryan just left, but I don't know what that means: 1 minute, 3 minutes, or 10 minutes. For somebody just standing and watching, it might not seem like all that long, but put some shoes on and 3 minutes feels like a long time.
Section one feels different without the crowd, running easier now, leaning into the turns, walking less, enjoying the feel of it. I exit the portion thru the cattle chute, pass the electric pond, drop over the bluff, and head down to the fields, when I see Ryan and yell at him. After field one, Chris yells at me something about me being the only person he's seen run up the hill in a while. Of course, I start walking and he laughs about it. Crossing the creek into field two, I see Ryan again on the other side. I'm slowly edging up to him but not enough to catch. Again, I exit the fields for the final section. This section is an odd mix of rollers, dips, turns, and even a bit of field that we seem to zigzag thru. Around the campsite pond for my second and final trip thru the barn for the finish where Ryan and John are waiting. I'm surprised to get in under 3 hours. Actually, all 3 of us get under 3 hours and glad to be done. I pushed hard at the end part with some strange desire to finish under three and both calves hurt bad because of it. I have got to sit down. Takes an hour for the ache to go away, but it is done.