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ATHLETE HIGHLIGHT: Andy Wacker

Our own Andy Wacker traveled to Jacksonville, FL to race in the USA 15k Champs Gate River Run on March 12. He placed 13th in a stacked field. Here’s a recap from his weekend at the race:

Ok, I’m officially that guy.

Its midnight, 100% humidity, 80 degrees, and I’m fake shivering, saying I’m glad I brought my jacket. I’m hopelessly trying to get in my friend, Eric Finan’s head. Let’s put this in context, we are traveling from places like Oregon, Colorado, and Minnesota, where it hasn’t pushed above 50 and rainy.

Yeah, I’m that guy.

Ok, let’s get to the point. Why is the Annual 15k Championships, held in Jacksonville, Florida so amazing? To start with, it is like spring break for big kids. It’s like when they ask if your trip is business or pleasure and you circle both.

The weekend can be broken up into three main parts: community service, race, and post-race party.

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Community Service

One of the best parts of my trip each year is the visit to Sanctuary on 8th street. This is a simple, yet well planned community outreach, where elite athletes volunteer to spend a little time with underprivileged kids in an after school program. I’m not sure who gets more out of it, the children or the elite runners. The kids get some one-on-one attention, and we feel like a hero for the day. It’s amazing and really one of a kind for a national championship race.

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Race

This part seems obvious. Year after year, the 15k is one of the deepest and most competitive fields in America. This is because running super-fan and elite athlete coordinator Richard Fannin is just too good at his job.

The race tours Jacksonville, crossing the St. John’s River twice, and features an equalizer bonus, and a blazing downhill last mile. The women start six minutes ahead, and the first person to cross the finish line, man or woman gets an extra $5,000! The bridges and palm tree-lined neighborhoods really add to the character of the course. That is, if you can take any of it in at five minutes a mile. The main Street Bridge, at the two-mile mark in the race, is where the action really starts heating up. I had my four minutes of fame leading the race at this point.

At the 10k mark this year, and I am not kidding, a bald eagle swooped down across the road. How patriotic can it get at a US Championship! I took it as some sort of sign. Apparently, the sign was that Eric Finan and the top pack would drop me. That’s what I get for trying to psych him out. The Hart Bridge, seen here at sunrise, is the culmination of the race, challenging tired runners to scuttle up to the top, before a timed blast on the final downhill mile.

I finished 13th, and was ecstatic to be done. My legs couldn’t take another sweat-drenched mile.

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Party

And here is the fun part. Post-race, it’s time to put the break back in spring break. For me, that included a lot of lounging on the roof top pool. And if you take a nap, or can muster past sunset, there is a nice view of the city, with a well-earned beer.

After all, it’s March, you are in Florida, enjoy it!

-Andy Wacker, ROLL Recovery Quality Control Manager

Photos via: Andy Wacker and Good Sense Running.