Addi Zerrenner felt she was running free.
Chris Gregory said “it was fun because you don’t worry about your watch, just the terrain.”
The 63rd Semana Nautica 15-Kilometer Run blazed a new trail on the Fourth of July, moving from the streets and bike paths of Santa Barbara and Goleta to the trails of Elings Park.
Former Dos Pueblos and UCLA track and cross country runner Sergey Sushchikh adapted to the trails and beat out Gregory and Tyler Hansen to become the first overall 15k trail champion of one of the oldest races in the country. His time was 52 minutes, 32 seconds.
Gregory was second in 52:58 and Hansen came in third in 53:10.
Zerrenner, also a former DP running standout, who just completed in her third year at the University of Arizona, was the women’s champion (12th overall) in 59:42. Rachel Ragona of Westlake Village (1:01.37) finished second and Annie Odonnell of Santa Barbara (1:02.22) placed third.
“It was awesome,” Zerrenner gushed of running on the trails. “This, to me, is what running is all about. It’s so much more natural than running in circles and hitting splits. I love this race.”
Gregory, a longtime road racer, thought the race would be “really cool to try.
“That’s why I came out; just new trails, new people to run with.”
He said of the course, “I thought the downhills were a little scary. Some times there’s a fine line between racing and being safe. Some times I took a turn a little sharp and I was kind on the edge there. It was fun because you don’t worry about your watch, just running a terrain.
“If this is the course next year, I’ll definitely be back.”
Sushchikh, who’s won the 15k on the road, decided to do the trail race for fun.
His impression of the new venue: “I really like this course. It’s different, it breaks it up from running on the road.”
Sushchikh said he followed Hansen, who looked comfortable running on the trail.
“The guy who finished third (Hansen), I was just sitting on him for many 80-90 percent of the race just because it seemed he really knew what he was doing,” Sushchikh explained.
“I would rather run his race plan than my own and that helped a lot. He would speed up on the more relaxed parts and slow down on the choppier stuff.”
Now an engineer working in Camarillo, Sushchikh said the course was a good fit “for the kind of shape I’m in, as far as top-end speed on a 15k (road race). I just don’t have it my legs because of lack of training. This stuff, the hills, were really hard. Some guys were really fast in the down hills, but there was enough flat where I could recover after it, so this suited me much better.”
Although he didn’t know of Sushchikh, Gregory recognized he was a good runner.
“With 5k to go, I didn’t know what he had left,” Gregory said of Sushchikh. “He was just hanging behind Tyler and I thought: ‘I’m good at hills, so let’s tango. As soon as I went around, he went woooooooo. I did the best I could. For a has-been, non-college runner, I did OK.”
Gregory did get some satisfaction by finishing ahead of Hansen and Jeff Stern, who came in ahead of him in the 30-39 age division of the State Street Mile.
“I took them down, so now I feel we’re one and one,” he said.
Zerrenner said she ran into a little trouble when she came upon a pack of 5k runners, making it was difficult to pass on the narrow trail. The 5k started 30 minutes after the 15k.
“I didn’t want to trample people over, but at the same time if you stop going up the hill you lose all our momentum. I had to be (yelling), ‘On your left!’ Some times I was in the weeds.”
But that’s all part of a trail race.
Race-day coordinator John Lofthus told the 5k runners at the start: “You have some character-building hills. If you don’t have character, you will after this. Hills are our friends.”
Lofthus and his crew from the Santa Barbara Athletic Association were pleased with how the first Semana Nautica 15k trail race went.
The race entries outdrew last year’s road race. There were 167 entries for the 15k, 127 for the 5k and 16 for the 1.5k dog run. And everyone was treated to a pancake breakfast.
“I think it was amazing,” said Lofthus. “For us, Fourth of July is about coming out and having fun with friends and family. This course, this terrain, it’s incredible. I’m amazed how many folks and runners in Santa Barbara haven’t been here, or only have been here once and haven’t run on these trails.
“You can see from all the smiles that people are having a really good time. That’s what we’re looking for.”
He said he received a lot of positive feedback from runners.
“I heard from someone, ‘I’d never done a trail race before and this was awesome.’ That’s what I love. What’s great about this is it’s a nice introduction to trail running, where you got some climbing, you got some technical terrain, but it’s not over the top. It’s something you can do, you just have to slow down, take your time and pace yourself.”
Ian Morgan of Goleta won the 5k race in 19:08 and Lauren McClanahan was the women’s winner in 22:24. Geoffrey Gray and his dog, Hank, were the 1.5-mile dog-run champions in 8:20.
The SBAA race is a benefit for the local high school running programs.