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Friday, May 13, 2011

Wa-Wa-Wapack Weekend - Part 4

The Miller State Park aid station was staffed by some kind ultra running volunteers. They knew exactly what we needed in terms of food and drink. They filled our bottles and packs for us. It was here that we caught the only person who passed us so far. He was unloading his pack. Seems that he stocked his CamelBak with water-proof gear in case the 40% chance of rain materialized. I on the other hand traveled light. I carried a hand strap 16oz water bottle and an elastic racing belt that clipped my bib number and held down 6 Gu packs on either side of a small pouch that carried a small 10-pack of tissues. (I was so deathly afraid of gastro issues causing me to stop for a number 2 in the woods. I'll save you the suspense, the 10-pack of tissues wasn't used - not even to blow my nose.)

Bill and I headed out of the aid station in about a minute and a half and followed the trail to what I at first thought was a dead end.

If I were to describe the topology of the Pack Mountain climb, it would look a little like the small letter "n". That is a near vertical climb, followed by a little downhill followed by more uphill over the peak and then a rather steep descent. And there are a lot of rocks.

I got the feeling that a long time ago, someone stared at this vertical rock pile and started to climb it with a yellow spray paint can marking triangles as he went. When he could climb no higher, he walked a little to the left and found some more near vertical rocks and started zig-zagging up them too. When they ran out, he walked a little to the right and found some uneven, steep, root-laden dirt path and continued up and over it and on to the summit. People just started following his path and that became the trail. So here we are, years later "running" (read: climbing) up this trail thinking in about 2 hours we'll be "running" (read: belaying) back down it. Unbelievable.

It was with a great sense of accomplishment that we crested Pack Mountain, ran by the towers we saw from Temple Mountain over an hour ago and started into the valley between the Packs. About this time, we saw the first runner come towards us. He had a two-digit bib number, ours' were three-digits. He was the leader of the 21.5 mile race.

[A quick aside: there is a 50 mile and a 21.5 mile race. I ran the 50, but some people choose to run the 21.5, which starts at the north end of the Wapack Trail and runs south. It's the second half of the 50 mile run without the extra 7 mile loop at the end. The 21.5 mile race starts at 8 AM so right around 9 AM - with an hour to the turn around for us and and hour into their race - we met.]

Another two runners passed against us - again from the 21.5 mile race. Then the deluge started. All 60 or so registered 21.5 mile participants passed against us over the next miles of steep single-track. We also saw the few leaders of our 50 mile race pass against us. They had already made the turn around and were heading home. We were still finishing the climb over North Pack.

If I were to describe the topology of the North Pack Mountain climb, it would look a little like an upside down capital letter "V". That is a really big uphill followed by a really big downhill. And there are a lot of rocks. There were some technical sections, not requiring pitons and a harness, but certainly not runnable - requiring hands to scramble up or down depending on your direction of travel.

Bill slowed down to tend to a cramp and I continued to the Mountain Road aid station - the terminus of the Wapack Trail and our turn around point. I had finished the out in just over 5 hours and 5 minutes. Bill was quick to follow. I took my time in the aid station using my drop bag to replenish my Gu stock on my running belt and mix an electrolyte drink for my bottle - which one of the aid station volunteers kindly did for me as I downed some salty snacks and a banana.

Bill was off and I was soon to follow. Half way done - but not really; there was that looming 7 mile loop at the end after hitting the "finish" line.

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