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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wa-Wa-Wapack Weekend - Part 2

It's 5:05 AM, Saturday, May 7, 2011. I just started running the Wapack 50 with about 35 other maniacs. The group of us has fallen into single file and started up the single-track trail over Mt. Watatic. It's dark. My wife convinced me to not use my headlamp - "the sun is coming up soon". It's cold. My wife convinced me to wear short sleeves - "it's going to be over 60 degrees today". It's quiet - save for the 70+ feet plodding on dirt, root and rock.

The Wapack 50 is a 50 mile endurance run over the historic Wapack Trail. Heading from Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, MA at the south end, 21.5 miles to North Pack Mountain in Greenfield, NH at the north end, the Wapack Trail is one of the oldest interstate trails in the northeast. It follows ridge lines up and over the summits of Watatic, Pratt, New Ipswich, Barrett, Temple, Pack and North Pack Monadnock. Of course the Wapack 50 is a 50 mile race and the Wapack trail is only 21.5 miles. So you run it south to north and then back north to south. If you're a math wiz, you realize that still falls a bit short (7 miles to be precise). So to complete 50 miles, you need to leave the start/finish line, run back over Mt. Watatic to the first aid station (3.5 miles) and then back over Mt. Watatic to the start finish/line (3.5 miles the other way). During the ordeal, you gain and lose over 14,000 feet in elevation and cross 7 peaks, twice, and 1 four times for a total of 16.

About 20 minutes into the race, we crest Mt. Watatic and start the runnable downhill section towards Binney Hill Road - the first aid station about 3.5 miles into the race. It's light enough to see now without the need for flashlights or headlamps. I'm following a guy (Bill) who's running a steady pace that I can keep up with and we make small talk as we pass some people on the downhill section.

I don't realize we've turned onto Binney Hill Road as it isn't so much a "Road" as a fire road / Jeep trail. We pass four gallons of water on the ground at 43 minutes. We think nothing of it. Bill starts cursing as we begin crossing the makeshift bridges over the wetlands of Binney Pond. He forgot to drop his flashlight at the aid station. "What aid station," I ask. The four gallons of water on the ground were our first aid station. So that's what kind of day this is going to be. At least I'm not carrying a headlamp or flashlight for the next 5 plus miles to the Windblown aid station. Score one for my wife Jen.

Next come the uphills of Pratt and New Ipswich Mountains. We run the short flats and gentle uphills and walk the more steep sections. It's slow work. Bill and I keep a good pace and talk some more. He's quite the accomplished ultra runner and ran Wapack last year. This gives me some confidence. If I can match his pace and he's familiar with the course, I might just be OK.

There's a small downhill off New Ipswich before we start up Barrett Mountain about 7 miles in. We pass a guy who's obviously struggling now. He's in full leg spandex/lycra and long sleeve spandex/lycra. He has a hat and what can only be considered hiking boots. He's sweating profusely and the sun isn't really beating down yet - it's only 6:30 AM. Even Bill comments on his own long sleeve running T and how hot it's getting. Thanks Jen - plus one again.

We cross into the Windblown ski area and start our descent to the second aid station. It's seconds under 2 hours when we make it to the Windblown aid station. Some food and fuel - top off our water bottles and we're back at it.

If you're keeping score - it's Jen: 2, Me: 9 (miles that is).

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