The range is oriented north-south and is located in the towns of New Ipswich, Temple, Sharon, Peterborough, and Greenfield, New Hampshire; and in Massachusetts, the towns of Ashburnham and Ashby.
Notable peaks include, from south to north, Mount Watatic, Pratt Mountain, New Ipswich Mountain, Barrett Mountain, Kidder Mountain, Temple Mountain, Pack Monadnock and North Pack Monadnock.
This past Saturday was the 4th running of the Wapack Trail Race, which is a Grand Tree circuit end to end 21.5 miles, a 43 mile end to end to end and for the real sick, the 50 mile where they have you go back out on the trail for 3.5 miles out and back. This last out and back begins with one of the longest climbs on the course, the climbing of Mount Watatic in Ashburnham, Ma. This steep grind saps anything you might have left in your legs and you still have 6 miles to go!
One particular rocky section on the Wapack
(Race day was not a good day for photos, so I took some shots that I took in the past)
On to the race...at 5AM and with the crack of lightening and pouring rain with temps in the low 40's, 40 ultrarunners started up the trail in the dark. Lights bobbing in front and back, I find Deb and wish her luck with a kiss and start to climb up Watatic. I'm glad I didn't have my HR monitor on because it would surely have been yelling at me, but I have to move to keep from getting too cold. Up front is Dima Feinhaus, a friend who just ran sub 3 hours at Boston and right directly in front of me is leggy Jeff List who always seems to find a way to kick my butt in these tougher trail races. I try to maintain contact with Jeff and am able to until Pratt Mountain, the 2nd long climb. Nature calls and time to stop....seems I'm peeing way more than usual this morning. Anyway, I don't see Dima and Jeff until they turn around and I'm happy to see they are only a few minutes in front of me.
Around this time, Bogie joins me and he prefers it hot is not a happy runner today in the cold wet rain. He has a hood on and gets jumpy whenever I stop to pee and re-catch him because he couldn't hear me coming....I decide to play with this and said "Boo!" once and he nearly jumped out of his clothes, but got a little irritated with me so I stopped playing with him and instead tried to drop him ;-)
When I run races, I generally like to be alone to get into my head and think the whole day out....drink, sip on my Liquid Shot, drink, Etc. Speaking of Liquid Shot, this is all I used all day, other than one small piece of banana and then a cup of soup at mile 43, but otherwise just kept switching out the flasks of shot.
After the Windblown aid station, Bogie got ahead of me a bit, so I hung back for awhile, but we soon hooked up again but then while peeing again, he got ahead and didn't see him again until the turnaround. On the climb up Pack, the highest peak on the trail, I caught up to Stas, another friend of mine. Stas seemed out of it from time to time, stopping on the trail and just standing there. So I went by him and next thing you know I hear behind me "Since when have you started kicking my a** on the downhills?" It was Stas and he was back....I'll mention that the rain was getting harder and it was real windy on top of the ridge and summits making it really cold. It was hard to stay warm!
The trail leading up to Pack Monadnock
After Pack there was North Pack, where we saw the 50 mile leader, closely followed by Ryan Welts, then the 21 milers started to come in droves...down North Pack and I'm at the turnaround and there at the aid station is Bogie looking at me and saying "I thought you were ahead of me?" Nope, too much peeing!
I filled my bottles with water and started the grind back up North Pack with Bogie in tow. Now I am focused on trying to catch Jeff and Dima who I saw heading up North Pack just before I reached the turnaround. It's always good to have something to keep pushing you and this time I had them in front and Bogie right behind me...and Stas coming soon, I was sure. I am in a race...
Heading North from North Pack
This climb and the one up Pack just after this is tough, especially now that we are in the 2nd half and running in the mid 20 miles. If you don't keep up with your fueling, bad things can happen. I kept diligently sipping on my water and EFS Liquid Shot and felt strong, occasionally getting complaints from Bogie behind me of the pace I was setting. By the time I reached the Summit of Pack, I was along and I found out later Bogie fell victim to the fueling thing. He bonked and had to drop off the pace. I'm now alone, how I prefer to be and keep pushing down into Miller aid station, just before crossing Rte 101. Because I had all my own fuel, I was in and out, just filled one bottle and got out while several runners were standing there looking at the table of goodies in zombie mode.
Mount Monadnock from Pack Monadnock
Across the highway and up Temple....this next section of the trail I know the best, this is where Deb, Tucker and I had done most of our running on the weekends once the snow melted. Temple is another long grind, maybe 15 minutes up a mostly dirt road and now I continued to push the pace to not only try to keep ahead of Bogie and Stas, but also try and gain some ground on Jeff and Dima. I love this climb and push it hard up it, cutting the corners tight to not be seen by those behind me to make them think I am further ahead. Yeah, generally strategies used by those trying to win the race, but we have our own mini strategies behind the leaders, too...and in this race you never know. The cold rain pummeling us can play games with your head and make runners decide to stop at 43 miles ;-)
This is a section of trail just south of Temple Mountain
I know this section well, and know that once you get up over Holt Peak, it is mostly downhill to Temple Rd., about 10 miles or so from the S/F or 43 mile point. As I cruised along this stretch, Stas caught up....he obviously was feeling better and was making his own push. We ran together for awhile and talked about things. At one point I managed to pull ahead and blasted down the hill to Temple Rd., but had to pee again and while doing this about 5 runners went flying past me!
This is in that section before Temple Rd.
OK, back to work....but need do it slowly, don't panic. This is where experience pays off. Keep eating and drinking and move as best I can and maybe some will come back to me. I will make a note that the first thing that goes when you are in your late 50's is the climbing legs....no matter how many hill repeats I do or leg presses/squats...toe raises, the muscles are getting old and all those who went by me are in their 20's and 30's, not good this late in the race. But this is a difficult 50 mile race and I'm going after them ALL!
...and it worked. By the time I got through Windblown, picked up another much needed flask because I ran out and had to eat some CliFShot blocks (yuck), I started to see the runners getting closer after the new section of the trail, which I liked. At Windblown I changed my shoes from my LaSportiva Crosslites to my LaSportiva Wildcats because my feet were soaked and sore, this is the only place I spent any time at all.
Binney Pond from the top of Pratt Mountain
(Tucker loved this trail)
The new section out of Windblown is mostly a really long climb up a grassy, muddy slope for about a mile and I just kept sipping and pushing. On this section I always feel like hitting Pratt Mountain and then Binney Pond is a good landmark. After Binney Pond you climb up to Nutting, then Watatic and the plunge down to the S/F. Good thing is during this segment I gradually reeled in all the runners that passed me and only Stas joined me. Going down Pratt I caught up to and passed Damon and Justin, two young guys running their first 50 miler and my guess is their downhill legs were shot, so I stepped around them and we had a nice talk going past the pond.
Binney Pond from trailside
Stas and two other guys went by me again on a small uphill on Watatic (those old legs again), but I re-caught Stas and saw the other two not far ahead, stumbling cautiously down the very steep Mount Watatic. Aha! One thing I still have is my downhill legs, so I blast by Stas and the other two and keep pushing right on through to the aid station at mile 43. Along the way we saw a runner coming back out and congratulated him. Little did we realize that Ryan had already done the last out and back to win the race before we even finished the 43!
I came in and saw all the runners that were ahead of me standing there soaking wet.....Jeff shaking his head, Dima telling me I need to be weak, too, like he was being. I tried ot talk Dima into coming back out with me, but he had already talked himself into being done...Stas walking back to his car and said he was done. I never had any intent of stopping and would not let that idea get into my head, so I grabbed a cup of noodle soup and walked back up the road to the climb up Mount Watatic, which I dreaded. But I have to say I still felt pretty good and was now in third place and just had to keep pushing in case anyone else comes back out!
This is typical of the trail going up Mount Watatic
(This is either Watatic's trail or Pack's)
As I near the summit I hear voices and see Justin and his brother pacer closing in on me....DAMN! I really just wanted to cruise this last 7 miles, but I guess it's going to be work all the way home. So I started to push again and the voices faded....I remembered that his downhill legs were shot, so I pushed all the downhills and did the best I could on the ups. On the dirt road section leading to the turnaround aid station at Binney, I saw the lead woman coming in and Deb only five minutes behind her. I gave Deb a good luck kiss and told her how close she was and start pushing ever so slightly to gain some before the turnaround. She looked great and ready to battle to the finish if necessary.
Back to my race....I reached the aid station and Pam Dolan was there talking. I knew I had to keep moving so just asked what I needed to touch to make it official and he high fived my hand and off I went. Pam wanted to join me, but I was on a mission to get this done...and good thing because not five minutes behind came Damon and right behind him Justin and right behind him another two runners!
I pushed on, not able to enjoy this last section, but knew I'd be done sooner if I pushed. I never saw or heard anyone and soon was at the summit of Watatic. I knew if I could get there I could crank down and no one would catch me....down, down....there's the small uphill before the road, there's the road....and push it in to the finish in 3rd overall in 12:40.26, a 36 minute improvement over two years ago. I was also again the oldest finisher in the race and all those around me 20-30 years younger.
So all in all I had a good, fun race...Deb and the lead woman unfortunately got stopped at 43 miles even though they were both doing very well. Rules are rules! Deb got herself a good 12.5 hour training run on a tough course, not bad for a 56 year old grammy! ;-) Wapack is without a doubt one of the most difficult trail 50 milers in the country...and I've run Zane Gray, San Juan Solstice (my absolute favorite), Jemez, Bel Monte and Pittsfield Peaks for comparison.
Nice view from the trail
Fuel was the important part of my race. Other than the two Clif Shot blocks I ate an the 1/4 of a banana, all I did was consume 4 flasks of First Endurance liquid Shot. With the 1500mg of electrolytes in this and 400 calories per flask, I was all set all day long. So maybe a total of 1700 calories all day and my stomach always felt great and I never bonked.
Shoes: I started in my LaSportiva Crosslites, that I love...but my feet still aren't used to this minimalist shoe yet, but I'm getting better. At around 38 miles I switched into my cushier LaSportiva Wildcats and they were good for about an hour. I realized afterwards that my feet weren't sore so much from the Crosslites, but because they were soaking wet. Once they got wet in the Wildcats, they started to hurt on the bottoms again, so I took some aspirin to help me finish.
Socks: Drymax Lite Trail Awesome sock, I love them!
Pack: Nathan Elite 2V Plus waist pack....love this pack.
Clothing: I wore my Wasatch Speedgoat shirts, singlet underneath, long sleeve on top of that and jacket when the rain and wind were hard. The clothes are made by Greenlayer and you never feel them on, so I guess they worked. My shorts are the Patagonia Long Hauls.
That's about it....no more racing until Hardrock so that I can spend the next 6 weeks doing specific training, upping the mileage and lots of long hills possibly in the White Mountains, unfortunetly without Deb because
on June 4th I move Deb out to NM and I fly back here because of no job yet...I'm hoping that when I come out for Hardrock for the course marking that I don't have to return to NH.
In summary it was a good Spring of racing and stepping stones to Hardrock. I'm running better than I was in 2008 when I last finished Hardrock, so things are looking good for that. My hope and goal this year is to finally finish in the daylight on day two, which is around 39 hours before I get too old to be able to accomplish that...the other hope is that Deb gets into Hardrock, with 8 weeks to go we don't know where she is on the wait list, but on March 23rd, she was 25th. There are usually a lot of movement after Western States, so we'll be hopeful.
Until then...Happy training!
I'd like to thank Norm Sheppard for taking over the race after Bogie could not direct it this year. Bogie was a very important part of this race's existence and if Norm didn't step up, it would have died. Deb and I used to put this run on years ago, named the Wapack Flashback, but it was not an organized race, just a fat ass and we used it mainly as a training run for Massanutten and welcomed others to join in.
Also many, many thanks to all the volunteers who stood out in the rain all day to serve us racers.
Results and Norm's race report below...
The Wapack and Back 50 is run on the 21.5 mile Wapack Trail, which travels N/S across the Massachusetts - New Hampshire border. The fourth running was held on Saturday May 8. A flash of lightning and clap of thunder sent the runners on their way in a torrential downpour at the 5 AM start. Rain and wind continued throughout the day, slicking the rocky, rooty trail. Ryan Welts of Milford, NH ran to the win in an impressive 10:09.
Norm Sheppard, RD
Morfun Wapack and Back Trail Races
May 8, 2010
40 starters, 31 finishers
50 mile results
Place First Last M/F Age Town State Time
1 Ryan Welts M 29 Milford NH 10:09
2 Dana Royer M 34 Middletown CT 12:19
3 Steve Pero M 58 Jaffrey NH 12:41
4 Justin Contois M 30 Holden MA 12:43
5 Damon Steed M 34 Wilton NH 12:45
6 Shad Hansen M 39 Milford NH 12:53
7 Bogie Dumitrescu M 35 Woburn MA 13:18
8 Joel O'bryan M 48 Northborough MA 13:49
9 Craig Bennett M 39 Lunenburg MA 14:00
43 mile finishers
Place First Last M/F Age Town State Time
1 Joe Carrara M 47 Charlotte VT 8:50
2 Matthew Davenport M 32 Framingham MA 9:43
3 Greg Veltkamp M 38 Winooski VT 9:43
4 Mike Weigand M 36 Middlebury VT 10:16
5 David Boudreau M 38 Brookline NH 10:19
6 Neil Feldman M 39 Boylston MA 10:40
7 Dima Feinhaus M 47 Newton MA 10:44
8 Jeff List M 50 East Falmouth MA 10:47
9 Scott Patnode M 29 Marlboro MA 10:47
10 Davey Edwards M 38 South Glastonbury CT 11:44
11 Brad Overturf M 43 Norwich CT 11:44
12 Paul Lahham M 30 Cambridge MA 11:54
13 Bill Butcher M 45 Fairview NC 12:23
14 Tammy Godin F 46 North Grafton MA 12:23
15 Julian Jamison M 37 Cambridge MA 12:36
16 Deb Pero F 55 Jaffrey NH 12:38
17 Pam Dolan F 43 Mystic CT 12:54
18 Jeff Godin M 42 North Grafton MA 13:10
19 Al Catalano M 57 Newbury MA 14:02
20 Charles Therriault M 25 Newmarket NH 14:12
21 Claire Martin F 46 Newbury NH 14:26
22 Eric Winn M 55 Charlestown RI 14:26