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Downtown Temple,NH

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Morfun Wapack Trail Race

After this week, I promise not to mention Seven Sisters again (at least for a while). The memories of that dreadful race are seared, SEARED in my mind. Ok, maybe it's not that bad but it really was a stinker. I guess more importantly, it hurt physically. My legs were toast and I couldn't muster a run until Wednesday of this week (and even that was painful and slow).
But I had a dilemma: the Big Lake 1/2 Marathon was this weekend and I really like this race. However, I didn't want to attempt it unless I felt like I could do ok (which I didn't). My confidence was shot and I didn't want to run a race I've done before, you know, just in case I stunk up the joint. So I did what any abnormal human being would do: I signed up for a 21 mile insanely challenging trail race instead :-)
Trust me, it made sense at the time I signed up on Monday.

On Saturday morning, I headed down to Ashburnham, Ma. to pick up my number and park my car. This would be a point to point race so you really wanted your car at the finish. They would bus us to the start for a roughly 9am start. I chatted with my fellow racers waiting for the bus. Surprisingly the topic was Seven Sisters (again). About a half dozen or so folks had also done this race last weekend and all felt exactly the same way as I did. Misery loves company.

The actual race is a 21 mile point to point adventure along the entire length of the Wapack Trail. The trail starts in Greenfield,NH (about 5 miles north of Pack Monadnock). It then travels due south crossing North Pack, Pack Monadnock, Temple Mt, Burton Peak, Barrett Mt, New Ipswich Mt, Pratt Mt and finally Watanic Mt. Yes, it's a very hilly trail and since it would rain nearly the entire day, it was also wet and muddy.

We all lined up at the start (in the rain) until Norm (the RD) gave us the "GO" command just before 9am. Thankfully, it wasn't a mad dash to get up the mountain as fast as you can. The climbing starts pretty quickly and continues for about 1 1/2 miles until the summit of North Pack. The pack moved pretty easy and I settled in with the top 10-15 runners. The cool (45 at the start) weather was perfect, although the rain was a bit much. The Wapack is pretty rocky and rooty but there are lots of sections which are completely runnable. It can also be very hard to follow. The yellow triangle trail markings can be hard to see on the trees and rocks, especially when they're wet. In fact the leaders got off trail at the summit of North Pack, allowing the rest of us to catch up with them again. I'd venture to say every runner got off trail at least once during the race. I personally got off trail multiple times, for a grand total of a couple of minutes (max). Most occurred at trail intersections which weren't clear which way the trail went. A few happened on the summits. Back to the race.

Right from the start I felt really good. I think the cool weather definitely helped. Surprisingly I felt better on the climbs and seemed to gain on my fellow runners, only to lose it all on the descents. I hooked up early with a couple of runners and we stayed pretty much together until the first aid station at the base of Pack Monadnock (5.4 miles). I reached the station in 1hr 7min and felt great. I saw Mike Wade (who was running hill repeats) in the parking lot and walked over, shook his hand and took off down the trail to Temple Mt. The next aid station at Windblown XC was roughly 7 miles away. This section was nearly all runnable. None of the climbs were steep and the trail wasn't as rocky as the first section. I ran with Clayton (5th o/a) and Ken (3rd o/a) the entire section. Heck, I've been running with Clayton since the start. We were all running this race for the first time. Ken asked me what my goal was. His was 4hr 30 minutes, mine was 4hr 15 minutes. Somebody was wrong since we were running together. We all took turns taking the lead and we kept up a pretty good pace through this section. We all strolled in to aid station #2 about 1hr 13 minutes after leaving Pack. We've been running for 2hr and 20min, covering about 13 miles.
The next section of the Wapack is totally new (this year?). Part of the trail was rerouted because of private land issues (in protest of being charged a view tax by New Ipswich). I personally think the trail's a little longer, but I also think the climb up Barrett Mt is a bit easier now. It avoids some of the steep rocky climbs leaving the Windblown XC parking lot. The new trail to the summit follows some old logging rounds, has no rocks and is generally runnable. However, if you have 13 miles on your legs already you're still going to walk a bit. It was during this section that I passed quite a few runners. Can you believe it? Me, passing runners on the uphills? Weird, I know.
Clayton dropped back during this section and Ken took off ahead. We'd stay that way to the finish. The trail from Windblown to the next aid station at Binney Pond (approx 5 miles away) is pretty technical (ie rocky). Wet rocks, steep ascents and descents and tired legs are not a good mixture. Thankfully I did not fall. Stumbled yes, fall no. My descents slowed to a crawl. Another 1hr and 13 minutes and I was at the next aid station. Approximately 17 miles were in the books, I've been running for over 3 1/2 hrs and I was getting tired. The trail gets much easier at this point, following old fire roads nearly to the summit of Watanic Mt. I couldn't see any runners in front or behind at this point but I definitely didn't want to get passed in the last few miles so I kept the pace up as best I could. My hydration and nutrition has been going great all day and nothing really hurt. I was just tired of running. The rain finally stopped during the climb up Watanic (the last mountain of the day). I took off my soaking wet windbreaker for the first time all day. A few minutes later I would reach the finish. I stopped my watch. It read exactly 4:15:00. Are you kidding me?? Talk about nailing your goal! I was also surprised I ended up 4th overall. Not a bad days work.

Results posted here.

Note: Photo credits (I think) go to Steve Latour. Steve ran the 42 mile version last year and took a bunch of pics along the way.Gives you a great idea of what the trail is like. The rest of his photos can be seen here.


Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...

Way to come back stronger then ever Steve. But if you need lessons on how to do a "Graham" as Chris D puts it. I'd be happy to show you.

Michael said...

Wait? Your "confidence was shot" after just one tough race under brutal conditions less than two weeks after running the Boston Marathon?!?! I thought you were tougher than that Steve! Nice run at Wapack, though. So, are you confident again?

Steve Wolfe said...

Scott, I came SO close to Grahaming on some of the downhills. It would have been messy. Thankfully? I only stubbed my toe.

Micheal, you know I'm never happy with my racing, duh!