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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wa-Wa-Wapack Weekend - Part 1

In case you haven't already surmised from previous posts - I'm a runner. I'm not getting much faster with all the training I do, but I did notice I could run longer and longer distances without problems due to the training. So 5k's became 5 milers, which lead to 10k and 10 milers to half-marathons to long-distance relays to a marathon. It was this continuous distance increase that lead me to a north central Massachusetts trail head at 5 AM on May 7, 2011. With a yelp in place of a starter's pistol, I - along with 36 other ultra runners - began running the Wapack 50.

How did I get myself into this? After flirting with marathon distance in training and running Reach the Beach as an ultra team in 2007, I thought I'd try the longer distance - 50k or 50 miles. I stumbled upon the RI 6 hour and ran that as my first official ultra in 2009. Still looking for a local 50 mile race I Googled "50 mile massachusetts" and the Wapack and Back 50 Mile Trail Race came up. I signed up and started training in January 2011 after my usual December break to enjoy the holiday food and beer.

It wasn't until I missed my last planned marathon-distance training run on Boston Marathon weekend due to a sinus infection that I started to worry about my preparation. I was going to taper after that run, so a week early shouldn't hurt, but I was worried nonetheless. I started to do some research on Wapack. Big mistake.

I read some comments: "This is a very tough trail race. Don’t attempt it unless you are in excellent shape." I read some recommendations: "Don't recommend this for your first 50." I saw a picture from a participant last year of a 100-foot vertical rock wall with the caption, "Where's the trail ... I know it's hear somewhere". The "useful trail guide" is a scanned copy of someone's scribbles on a napkin. I figured my 50 mile time would be close to 9 hours based on 38 miles in 6 hours giving 3 more hours for the last 12. The Wapack 50 course record was close to 10 hours. I was now officially scared and feeling woefully underprepared.

After a fitful sleep in a Fitchburg hotel and a 3:15 AM wake-up call, my loving wife kissed me good-luck as I started down the gentle dirt road to the single track take-off which started the climb up Mt. Watatic - the first of four times I'd run over that wretched mountain that day.

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