This one I knew was going to be a difficult one. Out and back 21+ miles each way, then an 8 mile out and back, which included climbing back up and over Mt Watatic twice. Total distance is about 52 miles, total elevation 14K up and down, all single track with many, rocks, roots and Black Flies. If you don't know what a Black Fly is, you've never experienced early Spring in NH. They are a small fly that after landing on your skin, makes a small cut with it's razor like mouth and drinks your blood. Damn little vampires! Soon they'll be gone, but will be replaced with Mosquitoes, which are even worse...New Mexico was nice in that we didn't have to deal with these sort of pests.
Because I train a lot on this trail, I know what I am capable of. My best ever End2End was 4:33 several years ago on a hot and humid day...so my goal time was 13:30 with an out split of 5:30, a return split of 6 hours and a 2 hour out and back final loop. My final numbers were 5:08 out, 5:52 back and a 2:15 final loop. I was well in the zone and kept my head and stomach together all day long by staying the pace, not getting wrapped up in the race up ahead. It worked, almost. I got to the turnaround in the final loop and bonked for the first time all day. I ate a couple of Clif Blocks (yumm, Margherita flavor) and within 10 minutes felt good and was running again. Then it happened again maybe 1.5 miles from the finish and with the steep downhill knew I'd have to eat something or fall down many times, so two more Clif blocks did the trick again....but once they kicked in I saw the final half mile road to the finish, so it didn't really matter....I just looked better coming in ;-)
The best part of the day was being alone in the awesome weather we had. It was about 60 degrees most of the day and the sun did a good job of hiding behind some clouds. When it did come out, I would start to overheat and get a little nauseous, so I'm glad it stayed hidden.
At the start, I kissed Deb and said have fun and started the big climb up Mt Watatic. The whole field (at least the ones who started at 5 AM) was ahead of me, except for Deb who was having a bad day and ended up stopping at Windblown (mile 9). I gradually reeled in some of the runners and ran with Donna Utakis, Jeff List and Jeff Waldron for several miles before nature called and I had to make a pit stop. I figured and was hoping I'd now have the trail to myself for the rest of the day, but soon I saw them right in front of me as they got back on the trail after taking a wrong turn for 5 minutes or so. We soon entered Windblown, which was the first manned aid station and Donna was the first to refuel and get going. I took my time, maybe 5 minutes loading my bottles and getting some more CLif Blocks and never saw them again.
It was now me and the trail....or so I thought. Climbing up the steep Pack Monadnock (around mile 17) I hear some heavy breathing coming up behind me...it was Tim Roy, last year's winner, who started at 5:15 and was catching up to the field.
(Bogie (RD) allowed runners to choose one of three starting times. 4:30, 5 or 5:15...but the cutoffs remained the same).
Tim said hi and chugged on and I was sure he would catch everyone eventually, but ended up calling it a day at 42 miles.
Next up was to see some runners coming my way. I was sure it would be the leader of the 21 mile race, which began several hours after we did at the north end of the trail, but instead it was Bret Sarnquist who was leading the 50 mile. He looked great and not far behind him was Tom Page from Maine. Next up was a pack of 21 milers, then the moving slower 50 milers started to appear.
I saw all of these runners on the summit of the last climb on the way out, so all I had to do was get down and start the return trip. I hit the split in 5:08, about 22 minutes ahead of schedule.
I filled my bottles, grabbed some chips and started back. Now I would see exactly who was behind me and also those who decided to start at the later time. There were a lot more than I expected!
The rest of the day was just great. Coming down off of Pack (26 miles?) I saw a Black and White Warbler doing her dance in front of me on a boulder in the middle of the trail, letting me know that her nest was near and to be careful of it. The next section, from Pack to Temple road is my training section of trail and I know and like it a lot. It was here that I heard the Ruffed Grouse beating his chest with his wings.
Soon I reached Windblown after moving fairly well in the section I knew well...here I just filled the bottles, grabbed some Coke and chips and started up the trail. The Black Flies were now getting irritating and while climbing up the beast of a climb on Barret Mountain (Barret's Backbone) , they would not leave me alone. I tried getting into the stream and soaking my hands and face, but that seemed to make it worse, all I could do was chug up the hill and get into the breeze on top. It was a long climb, very steep and getting hot. I was not having fun right now.
After that climb things started to get better again and I moved well up and over Pratt Mountain and through the Binney Pond section. Now I was making some progress...I am in the last loop section that I have to come back out and do. Notice how positive I was staying....never did I think of stopping at 42 miles, this I owe to my pacing which seemed perfect for my fitness at this time. Coming to the Binney Pond aid station, I see my friend Tom Mikkleson, we exchange greetings, I grab a fistful of pretzels and move on, soon plunging down Mt Watatic to the 42 mile mark. Before all of this it was good to see some of my friends on the final loop getting their race done.
I am running down the road to the turnaround and there's Deb with Tucker (our dog). She obviously got a ride home and had picked up tucker at the Kennel and drove back to cheer the runners on and help with anyway she could. It was good to see her, as it always is.
After the turnaround and the long climb back up Watatic, I see some of my friends returning to get their 50 mile finish and cheer them on. Finally reaching the aid station, Bogie gives his usual wise crack remarks, all in fun, and I go down, touch the boardwalk with my foot and start the 4 miles back. Here is where I had my first crash of the day, got through that and finally made it to the finish. Deb was there waiting....I sat down for a few minutes, but the black flies were so relentless that I said I wanted to go home.
Great race, very good training and I feel like I learned a lot today. Thanks Bogie!
Results and race website are here.
Next up, the Pittsfield Peaks 54 in Vermont in 4 weeks...another tough one.
For Mother's Day, Deb wanted to hike Mount Monadnock...I did and I almost died ;-)