Wapack 2017

Wapack – 2017

Good long run in the rain

There were 6 or so of us in a tight pack.  Paul, the race director.  A couple Spartan racer guys. A couple others.  We were picking our way down the back side of Pratt Mountain towards the aid station at Binney Road.  We were chatting away, having a ball.  I was telling the Spartan guys to take it easy because this was the hardest part of the course when we came back the other way.

It was not uncomfortable running.  It was in the low 50’s and raining hard from the remnants of hurricane Harvey.  As long as we were moving we were fine.  I’ll take 50 and raining any day over 85 and humid.

The back side of Pratt is a near vertical descent under the New Hampshire forest canopy.  It’s single path with lots of roots and rocks and trees that you can grab to slow your fall.  The storm made the darkness of the forest even darker.  The rain was hard enough to penetrate the tree tops.  It filtered down into our eyes and made it hard to see the trail.  A couple of inches of water ran down the center of the trail and we had to bounce off the sides to avoid it.

I love this course.  It’s mostly single path, highly technical trail, out and back, 30k-ish, up and over 4 Mountains, twice.  It runs more like a trail marathon because of the technical nature and the mountains. It’s all runnable if you’re a stud but these days I do a lot of hiking on the ups.  There’s maybe 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

There’s only one open part in the middle on a forest road.  You can’t really push on the way out because it’s up hill and connects with the last and largest climb up the back side of Watatic Mt.  You can stretch it out on the way back, because you’re not running up Pratt anyhow.  It’s too steep and too technical.

I let the pack go at the aid station in the gap after our successful descent of Pratt.  I had to scoot into the woods for a woodland potty break.  It was ok I wasn’t in any hurry.  This was a long run for me.  A good endurance outing for my legs and my aerobic base.  I went into it at the end of a build week.  Hard workout on Friday and another hour on Saturday going into the race on Sunday with tired legs.  Coach taking advantage of the race to push my fitness.

I had given my friend and clubmate Charty a couple bottles of smoothie to hold for me at the Binney station.  She and her husband Dave had the requisite big truck with the four-wheel drive to get up Binney Road to set up the aid station.  Since I had this support mid-race I opted to go with my smoothie strategy that worked so well in that 50K in the spring.  Pick one up on the way out and another on the way back.

I had my water back pack but I didn’t put the bladder in given the cold weather.  I put my phone in there and my endurolytes.  I usually don’t carry my phone but I figured I was going to be out there for a long time and I could use the music.  I’ve been crash testing a set of Bluetooth headphones and figured this would be a good test.

I pushed on through up Watatic taking it easy.  With the rain the views from the tops of the mountains weren’t so hot.  Last year I ate my legs up too early pushing down the back of Watatic to the turn around.  I ended up cramping late.  I made sure to hold back and take my time.

My old Hokas worked great on the wet rocks.  Most of the other guys with trail shoes on were slipping around.  The hard carbon outsoles lost all their grip in the cold rain.  I bought those Hokas for Boston! They have to have over 500 miles on them!  Just broken in!

I was running the sides of the trail and trying to avoid the deep puddles.  I ended up getting whacked by branches.  At one point on the way back I took a broken branch to the chest straight on.  It was on a cedar tree where someone had broken the live branch off and left a 12 inch nub sticking out.  I ran right into it and bounced off.  Like losing a joust.  I was deep into my rail trance so I just kept going and thought “well, that’s gonna leave a bruise.”

I hit the turnaround and took some time to fill my water bottle and have a Fig Newton or two.  Chatted up some old friend.  Told them to bring some blankets or something when they did the sweep, because if someone bonked and had to start walking they would go hypothermic in this weather.

I hit the turn at just over 2 hours.  I felt fine.  I was running all alone for the most part. I took the opportunity to fish out my phone and headphones.  I dialed up a couple good Grateful Dead concerts and headed back.

I got up and over Watatic with no issues.  I was very much focused on not getting lost.  As many times as I have run this course I know how easy it is to take a wrong turn.  When you take a wrong turn on this course it can add miles as well as mountains.  It’s super annoying to realize that you have to run back up a mountain to get back to the trail.

I stretched it out on the road into the Binney aid station.  I got sick of trying to avoid the puddles and just started running through them.  I was soaked anyhow.  I picked up my second smoothie and set off for the last 3 mountains, the last 4.5 miles and the climb up Pratt.  I was digging the tunes and having a blast.

I was running strong but ended up waiting at a couple intersections because I couldn’t for the life of me remember which way to go.  I waited for another runner to catch up so I could know the right way and I’m glad I did.  I probably lost 5 – 10 minutes waiting but it saved me some extra miles.

I didn’t race hard but I kept moving forward.  I kept churning up the hills without resting.  I did a good job of holding back and spreading my energy.  I remember looking at my watch, being over 3 hours in and feeling like I was just out running an easy trail run in the woods behind my house. I could run that pace forever.

I finished strong.  I ran a 4:11 which is pretty slow for me but it was the race I wanted to run.  I didn’t cramp.  I had plenty of energy.  My legs felt fine.  I didn’t fall.  I stumbled a couple times but didn’t fall.  I had a great time with my club and built another brick in my fitness.  With the weather and the end of a build week I’ll take it.

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