Monday, September 1, 2008

RR: Wapack Trail Race 17.5 Mi

Yes yes... I'm back at home safe and sound from my 8 day adventure in the White Mountains. I'm going to tell you folks all about it over the next couple of days in a multi part series. I hope you'll return here time and again to read about some of the things I got to do while on the journey as part of UNH's Outdoor Education Program. In the mean-time.. yesterday I ran in the Wapack Trail race in New Ipswich, NH. This 17.5 mile race has some 4,200' of elevation gain and is run on the Wapack Trail from New Ipswich, NH to Mt Watatic in Ashburnham, Ma and back. The race is part of the Grand Tree Trail Race Series.

Nate, Steve and I carpooled over to the area this fine morning where temps would rise to near 80 degrees with a refreshing wind. For the last 8 days I have carried a 50 lbs pack through the mountains of New Hampshire so had no expectations of myself for the event. However, I do always like to set goals with the main one being to Finish. I knew I could possibly finish the race in 3:30 or less but was thinking it would be more towards 4 hours. There were a few ultra-runners there; Bob Dunfey, Adam Wilcox, Norm Shepard, Bob's friend Rich and a young woman I recognized from the 2006 VT50. Always great to see everyone.

Everyone lined up on the starting line for what I knew would be a grueling day of non stop rocks, (yes we have some in NH), ups and downs. As the gun went off, just about everyone ran up the hill the race first climbs. Everyone but me of course. I stayed back and slowly walked up the hill. As I glanced back I saw Tom Parent, a talented runner whom I've seen on occassion. To summarize how the race went, I really struggled early on the uphills. As some of you may not know, I have been sick lately and not feeling like myself. No need to list the symptoms here, but it has affected my running greatly. As I ascended the first set of hills, my legs were extremely fatigued to the point that it felt as if they refused to do their job. I felt like someone was sitting on my chest as I struggled to catch my breath and lower my heart rate. Thankfully, a fellow runner named Dan introduced himself as a regular reader of this blog. With a hand-shake and a hello by spirits remained high and I continued on down the trail.

This type of struggling episode would happen a few times during the race. I ended up running most of the race with Steve. This was Steve's longest run EVER as he continues to prepare himself for the Pisgah 50K in a few weeks over in Chesterfield. Steve wanted to piggy back off of my effort throughout the run, but as I stepped off into the woods for some relief after the first aid station, I watched him pull away and I would spend the next few miles looking to catch him. Now alone on the trail, I spent the time wisely settling into a grove, taking my time and enjoying the day here on the ridge. I talked with a few fun guys from the G.A.C. as we made our way to the top of Watatic. From here it's all downhill to the turnaround and downhills tend to be my specialty. As I got to the turnaround aid station at Mile 8, Steve was there resting, refilling bottles and eating goodies. He complaining of some cramping in his calf and we left the station together, heading back over all that we had just run over.

We had some great stretches of decent running on the way back. We made sure to keep our feet flat footed on the climbs to lessen the strain on our calf muscles. We made it over just fine. We caught up to Tom Parent and we all started running together over the last few miles. We hit the "waterfall" section where I told and joked with Steve that "The race starts here bud!" I picked up the pace as Tom and Steve chased me towards the finish. The last few small climbs were brutal. My legs burned and screamed, I have no energy. I made my way onto the final descent on a gravel road for the Windblown ski area. As I ran downhill, I heard footsteps behind me. I looked back and it was Tom Parent... I picked up the pace to stay ahead of him and he yelled, "Hey, we going to finish this together or are you going to bring the pain." Of course I brought the pain and we sprinted in towards the finish, all smiles and laughing. As I got to the finish line... I slowed right up and stopped to wait as Tom and I crossed together, finishing it off with a five. Steve came in right behind us and is ready for his first 50K (whether he chooses to believe that.)

My finishing time was 4:19. While it wasn't the greatest time on the planet, we did manage to run a 2 hour out and a 2:19 back for near even splits. The course on the Wapack trail was amazing. When the wind blows you can hear their crispness as we begin to change seasons. The views of the Monadnock Region and the Berkshires were stunning. You know, as of late I've invested time at races setting time goals for myself, seeing which people I'd like to beat, etc... but today was different. My goal was to enjoy the day, take in the views, nature and some friends and just finish. Because in the end... Finishing is Winning.