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Downtown Temple,NH

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wapack End to End 21.5m Trail Race

Saturday I headed over to Asburnham,MA for my 2nd attempt at the 21.5 mile Wapack Trail Race (results). I had a fairly successful race last year so my goal this year was to better my time (aim high!). After taking the 45 minute shuttle bus ride to the start, we gathered at trail head and were given the "howl" command at 9am.
My strategy was to go out easy and be patient. No sense hammering the climbs right from the start (and yes, it starts climbing immediately).Not to mention the weather was totally different this year. Last year it was 45 degrees and raining, perfect for a long run. This year it started out sunny and warm and just got warmer. Not so perfect for a long run.
I was going fairly easy (felt like a training run) and was fine early on. A lot of people took off pretty hard and fast and at times I thought maybe I wasn't trying hard enough. Save some for the end I kept telling myself. I also think the first section is less runnable, with climbs up and down North Pack and Pack Monadnock in  5.5 miles. I came through the Miller aid station about 30 seconds faster than last year. I was a little surprised since it felt so much easier (and slower) than last year. A good sign I thought. That's what I get for thinking! I passed a few folks on the way to Miller State Park and came through in 10th o/a I believe.

Miller Aid Station - 5.5 miles
I had a Nathan pack with 40oz of water, some Cliff Shots and a couple of Honey Stinger gels. I figured I could go the entire way without refueling at the aid stations so I had planned to run right through all of them. I hooked up with Scott Patnode early on in the next 7 mile section from Miller to the Windblown XC aid station. Scott was actually ahead of me but went off course climbing Pack. He caught up to me climbing Temple Mt and we stayed together for the next 7 miles. This is probably my favorite stretch of the Wapack. Nice views and very runnable trails. Scott ran a 2:15 at Seven Sisters last week so I knew I was in good company. It was still sunny and still warm and I was heating up, I just didn't realize how much.
10 miles in, still feeling good!
We caught up to Steve Constine about 2 miles from Windblown. Steve was funny. As I ran by him he said something like "Steve Wolfe.....I'm always chasing you!". Apparently he was behind me last year as well. I guess he thought he had me this year. Oh well, maybe next year Steve!
The trail was pretty dry this year and I never got my feet wet. The 2 mile stretch leading into Windblown is probably the wettest section but the water and mud was easily avoidable. It's also a physically draining section, climbing slowly the entire way. I hate this section. I came into the aid station 1:30 slower than last year. The wheels were starting to come off, I just didn't realize it yet. Looking back, I should have stopped at the aid station and fueled up but I didn't. I grabbed a cup of water, poured it over my head and kept going. That was the last time I felt good all day.
Almost immediately leaving Windblown I felt nauseous.I was hot and was feeling very weak. I had plenty of water, and I thought I was drinking enough. I just didn't have any energy. The next 5.5 mile section from Windblown to the Binney Pond aid station was brutal. I walked every climb (and this section probably has the most climbing). Heck, I was walking the flats at times. I was so friggin hot and totally drained. I had zero energy and by this time I was no longer racing. I just wanted to get to the finish and be done. I had another gel and a handful of Cliff shots but nothing worked. Major nutritional malfunction.
As I walked into the Binney aid station I noticed two other runners there, both suffering as well. Nobody was in a hurry to leave. I took off my pack and had 3-4 cups of Coke, some oranges, M&M's and I don't even know what else. I didn't know how much water I had left in my pack so I asked the volunteer to put some more water in it for the last 3.5 mile section to the finish. Of course she filled it with 50oz of water (gee, thanks!). I know I look like heck but I'm pretty sure I don't need 50oz of water for 3.5 miles. Oh well.
I'm guessing I spent 3-5 minutes at the aid station. The three of us all left at the same time, shuffling up the dirt road. We mostly stayed together, chatting a bit, hoping the other would walk so we didn't have to shuffle along. Great fun.
I was feeling a little better and managed to run more than walk. Thankfully the climb up Watatic Mt is a gradual climb (one of the easier climbs all day). Of course, the descent is a quad-seizing event but at least it's a downhill finish! I finally stumbled across the finish in 4:35, 7th overall (a full 20 minutes slower than last year). I'm not disappointed (well, maybe a little). It was sunny and 70's for most of the day and was much tougher than last year. I do need to figure out a better nutritional strategy though....this one clearly did not work.
Comparison splits from last year and this year:

Aid Station Distance 2010 2011
Miller 5.5 miles 1:07:00 1:06:28
Windblown 7.0 miles 1:13:45 1:15:16
Binney 5.5 miles 1:13:35 1:26:10
Finish 3.5 miles 0:40:23 0:47:01
TOTAL 21.5 miles 4:14:43 4:34:55

photo credit - Miriam Wilcox-Barsalou (Miller), Emily Trespas (Burton)