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Rock/Creek racer Tom Sell, on how to get lost in Florida

This tale comes our way via the inimitable Tom Sell, of our very own Rock/Creek Race Team. Thanks, Tom!

Race Report: Valentine’s Kiss ‘Em to the finish 8K

I love new adventures. Heading out of town for a new race is always exciting to me. Last week my girlfriend Angie had winter break. She was off Friday and Monday. Somehow the discussion of heading to the beach for a long weekend came up and we decided to head south to Seaside, Florida for a little getaway at her parents’ condo. When it was decided we were going I immediately went to the Northwest Florida Track Club website on the off chance there was a road race in the area when were going to be down there.

Sure enough I found the “Valentine’s Kiss ‘Em to the finish 8K” held in nearby Destin. I checked out the details and found out you could enter one of two ways-you could enter as an opposite-sex couple but you had to finish together or you could just run the race as individuals. I thought about it for a moment and contemplated running as a couple but then thought better of it as I had visions of trying to drag Angie along at a six minute pace and the ensuing argument that follow our attempt to compete as a team. I decided we should just both sign up as individuals to ensure we would enjoy peace and tranquility the rest of our weekend together.

The morning of the race we made the short twenty five minute drive to Destin for our race adventure. The race sign ups were at The Track Recreation Center. It cost us 20.00 a piece for race sign ups and would have been 25.00 if we opted for a t-shirt. We really did not have much of a choice as they had run out of t-shirts (they had printed 200 t-shirts).

We signed up and quickly headed back to the warmth of Blue Thunder (my beloved 14 year old Dodge Dakota pick up that has a racing stripe and 191,000 miles). This was NOT the Florida weather I was counting on as it was in the 40s and very windy. We eventually got back out of the truck and did a very brief warm up. I positioned myself near the front and started the run into a fierce, howling head wind. I attempted to tuck myself behind a nearby runner to draft but when you are 5’9”-182 lbs and you attempt to draft behind a skinny 5’5”-110 lbs runner, it is more akin to a Hummer trying to draft a Mini Cooper.

My drafting attempts did not last long as I eventually settled in to a steady rhythm by myself. One guy had distanced himself from me and the pack as we went through mile two. By mile three I had distanced myself from the pack but was losing ground on the guy in first. I went through the third mile in 18:00 flat and decided to keep that same pace. I kept the first place guy and the lead police car in sight for a long time but with multiple turns in a neighborhood I eventually lost sight. I had gone through mile four in under 24:00 minutes and continued to cruise feeling pretty good about things and then it happened.

BAM-an unmarked intersection- the WORST thing that could have happened to me. I was the reason GPS units were invented- if you could possibly take a wrong turn in a race I could do it. I have even had race directors approach me as the ultimate litmus test for their race course: If Sell makes it through without getting lost, then we know the course is well marked. Well, here I was at a cross roads literally-do I go right or do I go left? In hind sight what I should have done is thought which way did my gut instinct tell me to go? and then go the exact opposite direction. Well, I went with my gut instinct and took a right hand turn.

Experience in going the wrong way in races did tell me to go cautiously so that if I was going wrong I could get myself back on course. After about a minute of glancing over my shoulder I saw the third place guy (now the second place guy) turning left. DAMN!!! I quickly turned around and began backtracking trying to limit damages. Too late as I saw the fourth place guy (now the third place guy) make the left hand turn as well. I was able to limit the damage by making it back to the intersection before any other runner came through. I ended up fourth place overall.

The post race party was being held upstairs at The Back Porch. We made the short trek there only AFTER I asked for very specific directions. Once we arrived at the post race party we saw it was truly a party. The first thing I saw upon arriving was a line for red beans and rice, to the left another line for seafood pasta and a baked potato bar fully stocked with all the fixins: cheese, sour cream, and butter. The biggest line was at the bar where two bartenders were attempting to fill plastic cups of Bud Light and Yuengling. The cups were disappearing as quickly as they were placed on the bar.

Wow- this was quite the event. We mingled around and talked to different folks awaiting the awards. Finally they announced the winners and fortunately for me my course running faux pas did not cost me a Masters win which turned out to be pretty sweet- a coffee mug full of chocolate kisses and a 50.00 gift certificate to a local running store.

This my second Florida race and my second time to be impressed with how they are not just races but events. The previous race I did was two years ago at the Billy Bowlegs 5K. That event is held at midnight and the post race party featured a live band and a beer truck, and all you could eat barbeque. If your travels take you to Florida check out a local race. You will not be disappointed….

Tom Sell is a former runner of the year, coach of the year and wrestler of the year. He is currently looking into supplementing his teaching income by MMA fighting or product tester for Garmin. Race directors looking for Tom to test his navigational shills on their course should contact Tom at [email protected]