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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wa-Wa-Wapack Weekend - Part 3

Leaving the Windblown aid station at mile 9 presented us with some gentle rolling hills that were easy to keep a good running pace over. Bill and I ran together out of the aid station and up the climb. We saw no one in front or in back of us. The field had thinned pretty well by now. The leaders were about 20 to 30 minutes in front of us according to the aid station volunteers. We had no illusions of catching them, it was just good to know where we stood in the field.

This seven mile section of the Wapack Trail heads over Temple Mountain and follows the long ridge line descending into Miller State Park. It's relatively downhill for the first 2 miles followed by a bloody big climb and an equally impressive descent over the next 5 miles. Most of this section was runnable. Again, we walked the hard uphills maintaining 'relentless forward progress'.

I started thinking about pace, timing and the possibility of completing all 50 miles. As I mentioned, the Wapack Trail is a 21.5 mile trail that we run south to north and then back south. That provides the first 43 miles of running. The last 7 miles are a "quick" out and back over Mt. Watatic between the start/finish line and the first aid station. If runners hope to complete the full 50 miles, they need to finish 43 in the 12 hour cut off time. If you arrive back at the start/finish line after 5 PM, you aren't allowed to continue back out. It's at this point that some runners who beat the cut off time also choose to end their punishment voluntarily.

Based on the reading I did from other peoples' past race accounts, I hoped for a 5 and half hour out and a 6 and a half hour return. That would put me at the start/finish line very close to the cut off time and maybe with a quick push at the end, allow me to head back out for the last 7 miles.

We had just finished 9 miles in 2 hours - a paltry 13:20 pace. Given that, we expected another hour and a half of running to the Miller State Park aid station at 16 miles. I was feeling good now. Time was closing in on 8 AM. My legs were warmed up. My body temperature was fine - the sun wasn't too hot yet. I had some good food in me to supplement the Gu packets I was taking between aid stations.

Bill warned me about the last 5 miles past Miller State Park - the Pack Monadnock Mountains. He said those 5 miles would take us at least another one and a half hours. Assuming that was correct, we'd complete our out in 5 hours. Assuming my 6 and a half hour return, I'd be well under 12 hours and be eligible to go back out and complete the final 7 miles. Now it was just a matter of keeping that good feeling - staying fueled and hydrated - and keeping the legs moving.

Our progress was impeded a few times with small detours. The trail is pretty well marked with yellow triangle blazes on trees and rocks but some have faded. There are also some intersecting trails and on the bare rock peaks only cairns mark the way. It was easy to get off track - and we did a few times - thankfully not too far. After cresting Temple Mountain and starting the downhill we got a glimpse of the towers on Pack Monadnock in front of us. It looked a ridiculous distance away and a rather daunting climb. Also knowing there was another higher peak (North Pack) hidden behind that we would summit didn't help.

Like clockwork, we entered the Miller State Park aid station at 16 miles after another 1.5 hours of running. It was just after 8:30 AM. We had kept our pace and were both still feeling fine.

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