Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wapack Trail Race

I've run the Wapack trail a few times, since the CSU ski camp uses it for one of our long OD runs, but I've never done the race.  I'd certainly heard Rob talk about it, and figured I may as well try it out this year, since I've been doing a bunch of these trail races lately.  I convinced Sharon to join me, because friends always make for more fun, even though she claimed she hadn't been running at all.  Evil influence that I am... Anyway, the day dawned hot and sticky, with a dew point nearly equal to the temperature, but it refused to rain.  This meant that the rocks were slimy with humidity, and I was badly affected by the humidity on the uphills, just unable to keep myself cool. From the start, it felt like my legs were made of lead.  I figured it would be a race about heat management, but didn't anticipate how much the humidity would destroy me.

On the line, I saw that Kelsey Allen was there, and a few other ladies who looked serious. Figuring that you either go big or go home, I decided to start with Kelsey and see what happened. We all pranced down the first hills through the ski area merrily, but it quickly became apparent to me that I couldn't go Kelsey's pace on the uphills.  I got passed by a bunch of men up that first climb to Barret Mt, as I slowed down to what felt like overdistance pace, and still my legs just weren't responding, but I was hopeful that they'd wake up soon. Over the flat crests and then we had the first descent, where I reeled in a bunch of guys and a loose group formed of me, a talkative guy, two guys who were running it "for fun" together, and a red headed kid in Inov-8s who kept sprinting ahead and then losing the trail. The trail isn't very well marked, but I've run this ridge enough at ski camp to know where to go, so that wasn't too much of a problem. The rocks, slick and slimy with moisture, made for really treacherous footing. I was still the fastest downhiller in my group, but I had to be cautious, because the rocks did not offer good grip today.  My X-Talons were good, but they are fantastic on dry rocks, so "good" is disappointing.  They do have the advantage of a narrow fit, which makes for an excellent close feeling when scampering down hills!

I dropped my group on the downhill to Binney Pond, and figured that maybe now my legs had woken up and I could put down some faster miles. The opposite was true. Every step took work. The next three miles were along wide logging roads with good footing that trended upwards. More guys streaked by me, and there wasn't much I could do to go with them, though I used each one as an excuse to lengthen my stride and fall into the hill a little more. I was starting to pray for the top of Watatic, praying to see some of the leading guys coming back at me, meaning the turn-around was night. Eventually, the leaders went by, and I headed into Mt. Watatic's steep and rocky descent, carefully careening down the hill past hoards of regular folks out for a weekend hike.  I saw Kelsey on her way up, comfortable around 10-13th place, and I knew that unless she had a more horrible day than me, I wouldn't be seeing her again.

I hit the turn-around, took some water and food for the road, and started climbing back up. This is where the problem of dead legs really started to hit home. There's a lot of climbing left in the next 9 miles. So, I went my own pace, letting the men go, listening to the wheezing and trying to keep it controlled. At the top I set myself to the task of crushing those gradually downhill miles, pulling in a runner or two along the way. I passed Sharon, coming the other way, happily hiking with plenty of folks behind her, and that cheered me up. Finally I hit the aid station, and knew I only had a painful 5.4mi left to the finish, and some refreshing watermelon.  I can't tell you how motivating the thought of watermelon was to me at that point!

The sun was starting to come out, but unfortunately not enough to lift the humidity from the rocks, only enough to make it uncomfortably hot anywhere not under the canopy. I would have killed for a breeze! I went through over half my bottle on the climb back to the ridge, not good. But, I could see a guy in a yellow shirt dying ahead of me, and I knew a guy in a red shirt was ahead of him somewhere, so I had my rabbits. My legs were terrible on these climbs, just not responsive at all. Not cramping, just tired. I blame the humidity. I passed yellow-shirt somewhere on New Ipswich Mt, and red-shirt just beyond, but Barrett Mt. has a gazillion and a half false summits, and these were killing me. I had an eye on my watch - I'd been hoping for 3:10, 3:20 on the outside, and 3:29 as a real your-day-was-shit sort of time, because that's Rob Bradlee's last time, and beating Rob should always be a goal. Things weren't looking good, though. My legs were tired enough that by the time I finally started the descent, I just didn't care anymore. The last mile felt like four miles, and I had to play horrible, terrible, mind games with myself to convince myself to keep running all the way back to the finish. "If you run for 90 strides, you're allowed to walk for 30". And so on. I was truly defeated by the humidity. Ugh.

The winning time was 9min slower this year. Kelsey's time was 16min slower. I'll be back, because that's a pretty fantastic race.  Hopefully the weather cooperates next time!

1 comment:

Ben Kimball said...

it actually makes me feel quite a bit better to see that other people got walloped by the humidity that day too, and that Kelsey's time was 15 minutes off the previous year (I came in the exact same amount of time above my predicted pace in this race). Anyway, regardless of how The Mug sat on all of us, you clearly rebounded well here after not feeling well a few weeks before at Savoy; well done!