Friday, May 16, 2014

Wapack and Back 50 Mile race report - Revisited 2014

This year's Wapack and Back 50 miler was my main focus during the long runs throughout the winter, as I tried to get in as many hills and sustain my base mileage. Read last year's report here. I signed up in February and decided from then on I would make it my 'A' race for the spring, hoping that a good performance would lead me into doing well on some of the White Mountain long runs I am planning for the summer.

My training plan for the last two months has been:

Week thru
Key Workout(s)
March 9
March 16
March 23
Uphill/downhill intervals @ Airport Rd. Worcester (11mi, 870’ gain, 2min on/2min off on uphills and downhills)
March 30
No workouts, recovery week
April 6
4 (tapering for Midstate attempt)

April 13

April 20
April 27
7 miles at tempo  pace on fire roads (9.7mi, 760’gain), 4 x  Pine Hill Tr. @ Wachusett (4.5mi, 2,215’ gain, 2 hard effort, 2 easy)
May 4

I've tried to focus on adding in some speedwork or tempo runs where I can, while not forgetting about hill climbing. Finding that the uphills were getting a little easier, I started adding in some interval runs that included hills to try to push the pace while climbing. I have a long way to go on my climbing ability, but it is something that has always challenged me. Downhills I feel I have some confidence on, especially using my favorite mountain shoe the Inov8 Roclite 295. The sticky rubber, while not comfortable running on roads, has helped me on wet rocks to stay upright and keep my teeth on many occasions.

Getting checked in went smoothly and before I knew it, everyone was getting lined up at the gate for the dark 5 AM start. The weather was humid and drizzling to start, with the forecast calling for rain in the morning and sun and high temperatures around 75 in the afternoon. Most people had headlamps as it would be dark for the first twenty minutes or so, but some chose to either run near someone with a light or just feel their way through the first climb. Eric Ahern, Jack Bailey, Scott Patnode and I climbed most of Watatic together out in front and Scott stopped a little ways before the summit of Watatic to tie his shoe. It was Eric, Jack and I that continued on down from the summit on the gradual descent down to the first aid station at Binney Hill Rd. In hindsight, running an 8 min./mile pace through this section was a little quick for me, but we were having fun talking about upcoming races, our shoe choices for the day, and various other subjects. We got to the dreaded climb up Pratt Mtn., a half mile climb up 500 ft., and picked our way up the steep slope. Making our way across the ridge went quickly and we were soon descending towards Windblown XC Center where the second aid station was. I fell back as Eric and Jack pulled ahead at some point before the aid station and ended up running alone for the next 10-12 miles to the turnaround at Mountain Rd. I was able to run my own pace and did not feel compelled to hang on to Eric or Jack and I think that helped me to be a little more consistent.

As I always do in longer races, I started to get dehydrated and tried at every chance to catch up with the fluids. A little mental fatigue came on at the climb up Temple, just as it did last year, and I talked my way through it. The scenery between the paved road section and Miller State Park became quite interesting in the fog and I think that area has become my favorite section.

Climbing up Burnett Peak, the fog really added to the ambiance in the morning

Foggy non-views

Nice forest section between Burnett Pk. and Temple Mtn.

Coming down the fire road from Temple Mtn. to Miller State Park

Being greeted by the awesome volunteers at Miller State Park was invigorating, and I got ready to climb up the boulder field to the summit of Pack Monadnock. Just after the summit I spotted Jack as he was making his way down the hill towards the saddle between Pack Monadnock and North Pack. I caught up to him and we ran together for a short time before he pulled away from me again. The climbs at this point were tough for me, but I felt good descending. I would continue in this fashion throughout the day. Reaching the summit of North Pack felt good as I looked at my watch and I found that I was about half an hour under my time from last year's race. At this point last year, I had already seen many of the 21 milers but it was still only about 3hrs 50 minutes into the race so they hadn't started yet.

The path getting to the base of North Pack consisted of tough navigating down the steep rocky slope, and I started to see some of the 21 milers as I made my way to the Mountain Rd. turnaround which helped my motivation. Jack was still at the aid station so I grabbed a few snacks, filled the bottles, and left at the same time as him. We both made our way up the steep climb as he pulled away, yet again, and I slowly made my way up to the summit. This climb allowed me to see who was in back of me for the first time: Dan Hrobak was about 10 minutes back and Scott Patnode was around 15 minutes and they were both looking strong. More of the 50 and 43 milers started coming down the trail towards me and their words of encouragement helped me to settle into a rhythm, making my way down to the base of Pack Monadnock.

I caught up to Jack again on the downhill boulder field that is the Pack Monadnock descent. We entered and left the aid station together and I made my way up the climb of Temple Mtn. That was the last I saw of Jack at around mile 26 until later on in the race, but just knowing he wasn't far behind gave me some motivation to keep pushing with what I had left. The rest of the race went by slowly but I tried to just keep a consistent effort, which equated to slow climbs on the uphills and letting gravity do the work on the downhills. I spotted Eric Ahern at the top of Mt. Watatic as I started my descent, meaning he was probably 30-40 minutes ahead of me. He was in rough shape and mentioned that I could probably catch him, but I knew that wasn't possible with what I had left. As I made my way towards the 43 mile finish, I talked myself into just treating it as another aid station and not even thinking about ending my day there. This mental pep-talk helped me to just turn around and head back out for the last 7 miles without putting too much though into it.

Heading out up the trail, I saw how far behind me Jack was and it turned out to be about 5 minutes or so. The climb went slowly and I was soon running the gradual downhill to the Binney Hill Rd. aid station and last turnaround before the 50 mile finish. I kept up what I had left for effort and was able to somehow hold on for second place. Coming into the straight fire road finish to be greeted by my wife and two kids was a great feeling. My 3 1/2 year old son Matthew had been looking forward to running into the finish line with me for the last few weeks and it was fun to share it with him. My final time was 10:42:06 and I got a new 50 mile PR. Maybe I should try a flatter 50 miler sometime to get that time down, but I am happy with taking about 40 minutes off last year's time. Eric ran a 10 hour time and Jack came in about 7 minutes behind me.

Eric finishing up with the win

Blurry finishing photo

After jogging in with Matthew

Notice the paces in the beginning and how they gradually get slower throughout the day. GAP means Graded Average Pace, which somehow factors in elevation gain and comes up with a different pace. The gray background is the elevation and the blue line is my pace.

Top 3 Men in the 50 mile. (Center L-R Myself, Eric, Jack) flanked by Ryan and Kristina. Photo by White Mountain Running Company.

Strava activity link here

Full results here

The new race directors, Ryan and Kristina, did a great job and I hope they continue to direct the race in the future. I want to thank all the volunteers for coming out and spending the day fueling us through the race, as well as all the other runners that offered words of encouragement helping me through the day. My wife is my biggest supporter and without her giving up some of her days to meet me at races and cheer me on, it would not be as rewarding. She puts up with a lot and I owe a great amount of gratitude to her for all she does.

I plan on taking the following few weeks easy and resting up after this race and will now turn my attention to more mountain specific training as I get ready to put in some long mountain runs. The tentative plans for the summer are to run a Pemi Loop in June and try to take a little time off my last run of 9hrs 30mins. I am planning on maybe running a Mahoosuc Traverse in July, after studying Adam Wilcox's run from last year and then capping off the year with a Hut to Hut Traverse attempt. I am not sure if I will do the standard Hut to Hut or the MacPhail yet, but it will not be for the FKT which is really stout.

As far as races go, I will run the Bear Brook Marathon again (race report from last year) and maybe the Fall Classic (race report) in October before Justin and I give another shot at the Midstate Trail Traverse.