Sunday, September 6, 2009
Ipswich, NH – Windblown Ski Area
Wapack Trail Race – 17.5 Miles
(Me In The Back)
I woke up just as the sun was rising over the ocean here on the States Seacoast anticipating the long drive over towards Keene. As I drove my car across the state, I couldn’t help but reminisce about this same race a year ago. Visions of clambering up hill sides less than 2 miles into the race, leaning and hang onto tree’s gasping for air, wondering what was wrong with me. My heart racing, short of breathe, dying… eyes bugging out of my skull and finding myself at the back of the pack. I pushed on to finish the race last year in a stifling 4 Hours 13 Minutes. I was saddened by my performance, embarrassed and searching for answers. An emergency visit to the doctors and I found out I was anemic. As I drove across New Hampshire this year, the anemia and it’s cause had been taken care of and gone, yet not scratched from memory. As has been the motto for this year thus far, the time for excuses is gone, there is no tomorrow, only today.
I signed up when I arrived at the race site. I forked over my $25 and went back to my car to get my gear on. It was a chilly morning in Western NH with temps hovering in the upper 40’s. Its been a cold and wet summer thus far; thankfully the sun was out today. None of my usual friends were at the race this year. I saw some familiar ultra-folk, shook hands with some guys I’d never met before and prepared myself on the starting line. The race director gave us a the pre-race speech which consisted of him telling us that the rocks and roots make the course “dangerous.” Really? I gave myself a little chuckle, turned and awaited the yell to start. “GO!”
As the field made its way up the hill right at the start, I found myself latching on to some of the faster runners. I never run hills, I’m not used to this. I didn’t want to walk either though, so I just hung on for dear life as long as I could. By the time we crested the hill, I felt myself slipping back through the pack and struggling. My mind surged to a dark place, “Why this time… what is wrong with me?!” I get angry with myself and start talking myself through the process. My main thought became the usual.. I knew a bunch of the folks ahead of me were first timers on this course… and they would eventually be stunned by the torture the hills put on those who try to run them all. I decided to settle in, walk the ups when I needed to.. and run the rest as I could.
I settled in behind a female runner from Maine who had rode down with Bob Dunfey. Her name escapes me. I guess I met her at the VT100 and her name escaped me after that as well. She provided good conversation as we made our way over the countless steep climbs, over the confusing peaks, and down the quad pounding downhills. We made our past the mid course aid station without even stopping for so much as a treat. We continued on talking with and leap frogging Reji James. Soon we heard the voices of many people. We had reached the top of the last peak which was being climbed by a large number of weekend warriors, as we crested the summit I headed down the other side. I’m usually pretty good on the downhills and today was no different. As i made my descent I was forced to weave in and out of the crowds making their way towards up high. It was quite an adventure and they were all very accommodating and supportive. I made my way to the gate where the aid station crew had set up for us in a parking lot. I stopped for a bio-break, ate some fruit and refilled my bottles. I sucked down a gel and watched as runners came in and quickly left… now I had numbers to catch. I started thinking strategy for the way back.
I quickly caught most of the people I saw come in and out of the station quickly, I scorched past them on the way back up the mountain. A few I could see but couldn’t catch but I tried like hell. One the top of the peak there was a huge commotion. The people on top seemed to have tripled in numbers, mostly kids yelling and screaming and pointing us in the right direction.. or were they. I followed one child’s directions and found myself still looking for the trail. Once located, I quickly bounded down the trail, poised to enjoy the miles ahead playing my favorite home stretch game… PAC MAN!
I put my head down and finally got into a groove. I always hate how in these shorter races, it takes me 3/4 of the race to find my groove and settle in. But once I finally do.. things really start to click. The miles really start flowing under my feet and I continue to pick people off one by one though slowly at first. I saw Tom Parent at the turn around as he was leaving, I never thought I’d see him again but then I caught him at the mid-way aid station. “Whats goin on Tom?!” “Oh you know.. out of shape.” I doubted that but I continued on along the beaver swamps right behind him. Tom took off and I had a hard time catching him again, until I saw him sitting on a log. His shoelace had broke and he was trying to fix it (I hate those solomon shoes). I carried on past him and as I started to climb one of the final hills, I looked up to see another runner. I made it my goal to catch him so I kicked the power hiking into gear. As I got closer to the runner, I looked up and saw another right ahead of him.. it was on now. As I noticed those two runners walking, I started to run. When they saw me running, they ran as far as they could. The running of the early miles paid their toll on these guys as they didn’t seem to get far. I past them and Reji and the woman I ran with earlier… I crested the final peak and then bombed down onto the dirt road which leads down the finish line.
As I crossed the line I looked at the clock. I took account of myself and how I was feeling. I was breathing normal, sweating just right and I felt like I could have kept going. I turned in my bib stub and walked on over to the food tables to pick at the fruit, brownies and pizza. It was a great day to be alive and even better day to be racing. I got my redemption from last year, and I was proud to have done so systematically.
33rd out of 87 Finishers