Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wapack and Back Trail Races 2015 - Race Directing Report

Race directing the Wapack and Back race proved to be more tiring and anxiety producing than running the 50 mile race.

The weekend prior to the race, a couple friends and I met at Miller State Park in Peterborough to run the Northern half of the course and review any confusing intersections we may have needed to add additional markings to assist runners. The following pictures are taken on that day from various points on the trail. We timed it just right to see the sunrise from the top of Pack Monadnock before making our way across to North Pack Monadnock. The course that day was very dry and it became hot as we finished up our run. We ended up picking a few spots to add markings and got in nice training run around 20 miles,  Strava data here

Sunrise from Pack Monadnock

Some of the open ledge sections near the North Pack summit

Along the rolling ridges near Temple Mtn.

A side trail lead to some great views East, near Temple Mtn.; dry and HOT

Adam coming down the newly cut Beebe trail (side trail off Temple Mtn.) with Pack Monadnock in the background

Setting up in the dark

I was contacted in December about whether I would be interested in taking over as race director for my favorite race and spring training focus in past years, the Wapack and Back Trail Race. It took me a while to decide whether I wanted to run the race or organize the event. I thought it would be a good opportunity to try my hand at organizing an event and I decided to discuss it with my wife, Amanda. We agreed to work together in organizing the event (I still don't know why she wanted any part of it), and got back to TARC letting them know my interest in directing the race.

The first order of business was to contact the various park management authorities to obtain permits, USATF for required race insurance, and miscellaneous other people to see if the event could be put on again this year. Once I heard back from all of the entities that the event was going to continue, I put together all the paperwork, sent it in, then got going on the budget for the race and deciding what the race fees would be. With a lot of help and advice from Norm, Bob, and Josh from TARC, we were able to get registration live in late January. I knew from past years that the 100 person capacity fills up quick, but I didn't know that in less than 12 hours we would already be sold out and putting people on the wait list.

After registration was complete and the flurry of activity was done in January, I knew there would be a lull until it came time to actually start planning for aid, confirming transportation, porta potties, etc. Before I knew it, late April was upon us and we had to nail down some of the detailed planning for the race. After laying out what we thought would work for each station on paper, it was time go to the various stores and the TARC storage locker to assemble all the gear required for the race.

The day before the race arrived Amanda's brother and I quickly got to work picking up the box truck and making our way out to Westwood's Hale Reservation to gather up all the miscellaneous gear that TARC loaned us for the race. This was my first time driving a box truck and I was glad to have rented the one with extra loose steering allowing me to be surprised every few miles when the truck would "float" around on Rt. 95/128. At least it kept me on my toes the whole time.

Strategically packed box truck ready to go

Start/finish supplies packed in our van

My daughter helping out with supplies

Once we got all the gear back to the house, it was time to fill all the water jugs and lay out the stuff on our lawn to pack the truck in the order we would be dropping everything off. After many hours of this work, it was time to have some beers and get to bed for our 2am wakeup. Arriving at the Mt. Watatic parking lot at about 3:40 we got started setting up for registration. Meanwhile, Chris Agbay and Norm dropped off a couple water bottles at the 3.5 mile Binney Hill Aid Station spot for 50 milers to grab on their way by.

I gave a short speech about no extra markings on the course letting people know that if they go 200 yards without seeing a marker, they should turn around and retrace their steps. Then, after starting the 50 mile race it was time for me and Chris to jump in the truck and drop off all the gear for the aid stations (Windblown, Miller, Mountain Rd.). Binney Hill's aid station was setup by Russ who would be helping out there with Chris (Russ wrote a volunteering report on his blog here). After dropping all the stuff off up North, I got myself and Chris back to Mt. Watatic in time to prepare for the ride behind the buses up to the northern end of the Wapack, which is the start of the 21.5 mile race. I gave the same short speech to the 21.5 milers and soon enough they were off, including my friend and training partner, Phil, who would be running his first race ever - choosing the Wapack Trail to do it on.

Taken from the Summit of Mt. Watatic during Will and my cruise along the course during the race

Along the ride back, I checked on a few of the aid stations to see how things were going and made it back to the finish line just before 11am. We weren't expecting anyone to come in until around 12:15 or 12:30, so Will (a friend/volunteer) and I decided to get in a short run on the course. We made it up and over Watatic and almost to Binney Hill Aid before seeing Ryan Welts with Jonny Hammett close behind. We turned around to try to catch them finishing. Ryan would end up winning the race about 2 minutes behind Dave Herr's course record and Jonny came in second about 10 minutes later. Kristina Folcik-Welts, Ryan's wife, won the women's race, was third overall and established a new course record for women. Full results can be found here.

After the first few people have come in

After the first few people came in, it was a steady stream of people finishing both races until around 4pm when things started to die down a bit. It was a great scene with a lot of people I knew from previous races. Everybody was relaxing after their hard-fought efforts on the tough trail and chatting about what they had coming up this summer for goals. Trying to keep up with the timing and other duties took a little focus, but it seemed to work smoothly as far as I could tell.

The volunteers, my wife, my parents (for taking our kids for the day), TARC, and all the runners were great and helped the race run smoothly. The volunteers at all the aid stations knew exactly what they were doing and made my job look easy. Without all the help from everyone involved, the race would not have been such a success. We didn't have any medical issues -- even in the hot weather, no complaints about stations not having what people needed, and the vibe seemed to be pretty relaxed and down-to-earth with everybody just enjoying the day.

The volunteers at the finish line: Jay, Will, and Tony took photos of most, if not all, finishers as they approached the finish line gate. Those photos are on facebook here  Also, Ben Kimball was up on the ridges of the New Ipswich Mountains taking some professional photos, you can find his sets here.

Thank you to my wife, the volunteers, Trail Animals Running Club, Josh, Bob, Norm, the runners, and everyone who helped make this a successful day, we are looking forward to next year!

Sonja Glaser, our final finisher in the 43 miler, with her husband

All packed up and ready to leave

Last view of Mt. Watatic for the day

Friday, May 1, 2015

TARC Spring Classic 50km 2015 - Race Report

I volunteered for the TARC Spring Classic races last year and had a great time hanging out with friends and seeing what a race looks like from the volunteers' standpoint. The "trail race festival"offers a few different distances: 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon, and 50km that consist roughly of 10km loops which bring you back to the start/finish aid station. There is a great atmosphere that TARC(Trail Animals Running Club) provides and it was good to see that there were many people that I know signed up this year.

Preparing for the Spring Classic 50k over the last four weeks since my last 50k run, had me trying to put in a little less mountain running time and a little more training on double track trails. In terms of the long runs, I never ran over 17 miles on a single run, but still felt confident enough in my base mileage to at least attempt to go for a sub-4hr finish. I figured if I could run a few 45 minute 10k loops (there are 5 on the 50k course) to start with, that would give me a cushion to go slower on the last two, which is usually inevitable for me. Never running on the course in prior years, I relied on strava data and elevation profiles from last year to get any sense of the trails.

I'm on the right running with (L-R) Loren Newman, Peter Lawry, Kevin Tilton. Loren would go on to win the race in 3:47:33. Photo by Edith Dixon.

Tall pines. Photo by Lindsay Topham at Topham Photo.

L-R Billy Preston, myself, Adam Wilcox, Kevin Tilton. Photo by Lindsay Topham at Topham Photo.

GPS map of the course

Ascending pace graph, especially after mile 24.

Race results here

My paces went as follows:
1st loop (10k): 46:30 (7:47 pace)
2nd loop: 48:11 (8:04 pace)
3rd loop: 51:21 (8:36 pace)
4th loop: 59:04 (9:53 pace)
5th loop: 1:05:16 (10:55 pace)

Half Marathon cumulative time: 1:41:22
Marathon: 3:40:06

As you can see with the pace chart, the race was a positive split (slower at the end) and a particularly slow last 7 miles. I ended up running in third place for most of the race, until mile 23 or 24 when Billy Preston (2nd place) blew by me looking strong. I continued along at a pace I found manageable at that point and wondered when I would get passed by others. I'm not sure what the reason for the lack of energy in the legs was, but I suspect it might be because I haven't had a good consistent long run at a quick pace in a while (or most of the winter for that matter), and trying to push in the beginning of the race came back to bite me at the later miles.

I approached this race a little differently from others, and just tried to go for it from the start. Typically I am a little more conservative, planning on catching others late in the race so this was a change for me. I have been trying to get more comfortable with the 50km distance and in recent races have been experimenting with different strategies to see how they work for me.

The last four miles of the race were very slow for me and there was a little walking involved. I ended up finishing in 4:33:30 for fifth place after getting passed by the #3 and #4 finishers in the last four miles or so. It was a fun day on the trails and the course marking, volunteers, and whole atmosphere was great. I'll try to make it back next year now that I know what to prepare for and give the sub-4 hour 50k another shot.

Gear used:
Shoes: Inov8 Raceultra 290
Socks: Darntough VT Herringbone Micro Crew Ultralight
Shorts: The North Face Better Than Naked 5"
Shirt: Wapack and Back 2012 shirt, with Patagonia All-Weather Long Sleeve
Hat: Salomon XT Compact Cap II
Ultimate Direction handheld and four gels (Boom! and Honey Stingers)

The shoe and sock choices worked out really well for the conditions. I went with a slightly lighter sock from my usual race day sock, because of the warm conditions and tendency for my feet to swell throughout the run. It turned out to be a good choice and I had no blisters or issues with socks bunching up.

After this race, I don't have any key ultras that I am signed up for or planning on running. My focus training runs for the next couple months will be designed to get me ready for another AMC Hut Traverse attempt some time in July. I will plan on running a few times up in the Whites prior to the attempt, maybe trying for a fast Pemi Loop, and some time on the Presidential range. The Hut Traverse is my main focus for the summer, with some races in the fall looming on the radar as well. I am contemplating signing up for the Pisgah 50km race, where I ran my first ultra in 2011. I will be attempting to complete my first 100km run at the TARC 100k in October as well.

This coming May 9th, I will be directing the Wapack and Back trail races. I am not sure what to expect for race day, but almost all preparations are complete (besides buying all the food) and I will have my wife helping me out for the entire day. There has been a great showing of experienced volunteers and I am looking forward to experiencing the race from the other side of the fence. It is going to be a fun day!