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Downtown Temple,NH

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wapack Trail Race

Last year I did this race when it was only 17.5 miles and it was hard. I didn't have any long lasting memories of why I shouldn't do it again so I decided to go back for round 2. The race follows the Wapack Trail from Windblown XC ski area in New Ipswich,NH to Asburnham,MA....and back, climbing 4 mountains each way with a total elevation gain of 3500ft. A reroute of the first couple of miles changed the distance to 18 miles this year and changed the start/finish setup dramatically (IMHO). Instead of staring UP the hill, we'd be facing the opposite direction and actually have a fairly long downhill start.
Having run the 'other' Wapack trail race in May (end to end 22 miler), I was familiar with the new trail up the first of 4 peaks (Barrett Mt). For some reason 99% of the runners just wouldn't line up at the starting line, choosing to mingle a good 10-15ft behind it (see picture below). I have no idea why, other than maybe they weren't quite sure which way to go.
At the starting line
Most of the first mile+ is a steady downhill on old logging roads, which led to a fairly fast start for an 18 mile trail race. The new climb up Barrett is much more runnable but still pretty steep. No wimpy switchbacks getting up this one, just a straight shot to the top. I went out fairly easy and climbed steadily, and was probably in my finishing position (10th to12th place) by the time I reached the 1st summit 2 miles in. It doesn't mean there wasn't any racing going on. I traded positions all day with various runners, mostly with Scott Patnode. Scott and I ran together a good part of the day. The Wapack is notorious for being a fairly hard trail to follow, especially when you're running it. Thankfully this year someone went out and marked (with blue arrows) some of the trickier sections (mostly on the summits). It was very easy to follow...for once!!
I was feeling pretty good on the way out and eventually opened up about a 3 minute lead on Scott by the time I hit the half-way point in 1:24 (10th place). If you want to know where your competitors are, an out and back will let you know. Keith Schmitt was about 5 minutes ahead, Jimmie Cochran about 4 minutes behind and the eventual 10th place finisher was right behind me. He would pass me pretty quickly on the steep climb back up Watatic.
Battle wounds for the day
Once you summit Watatic (on the way back) you have a fairly long downhill/flat stretch of about 3 miles on mostly logging-type roads. It's a nice recovery for your feet and legs. Unfortunately I chose this easy section to verify gravity really does exist. While I'm not entirely sure what happened, I'm guessing I was reaching for a gel in my front vest pocket when I crashed and burned, landing on my left shoulder and left side of my face. I went down fast and hard, laying in the middle of the trail for several seconds waiting for the stars to go away before eventually sitting up with a splitting headache. I was somewhere between mile 11 and 12. I sat there for several minutes trying to relax, settle down and make sure I wasn't injured too badly. A couple of runners (still on their way out) eventually came by and asked if I was ok and whether I thought I needed medical attention. At the same time Scott went running by.
That was all the motivation I needed to get running again. I immediately took off, hoping to chase Scott down. I caught him about 1 1/2 miles later, mostly because he was slowing down. Several times I thought about packing it in. If there was a way to get off this stupid trail and get back to my car with very little effort I would have done it.
I'm pretty sure I walked the entire way up Pratt Mt and ran sparingly over to New Ipswich Mt as well. I saw some hikers near the summit of New Ipswich so I decided to get running again and at least make it look like I was racing. Ugh. They were nice enough to cheer me on which I appreciated. However, about 10 seconds after passing them they began cheering someone else on. Who the heck was right behind me? Jimmie C. had caught up to me. Damn. Still 3 miles to go.
 Approaching the finish
If nothing else, the sight of Jimmie got me racing again and I began to push a little harder hoping to stay in front. My pace definitely quickened as I tried to open up whatever gap I could (on the uphills), only to lose it all on the downhills. As we headed down Barrett he was right on my heals but passing was tough on the single track and I wasn't about to step off to the side and just let him pass. When we reached the bottom and turned onto the logging road he made his move and passed. I tucked in behind him and tried to keep him as close as possible. I guess I wasn't really paying attention on the way out because this last section lasted FOREVER and was mostly uphill. Rough guess I'd say it was around 1 1/2 miles from the bottom of Barrett Mt to the finish. We were running it like it was 400m. Around every turn, every corner the trail just kept going. I got close a couple of times but I didn't have any gas left in the tank, and eventually finished 7 second back in 3:00:12, 12th overall (complete results). Not a bad day.

photo credits - Kim Allen & Wapack Website

1 comment:

peace said...

Wow,you are so great. What is more important is you finished the race.