Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Wapack and Back

Scott signed up for the Wapack and Back trail ultra marathon a few months ago and encouraged me to sign up too. I thought it was too close to the Boston Marathon so I wanted to wait and see how I would feel but then the race filled up (they cap the race at 40 or 50-something participants to minimize environmental impact). I told Scott I'd run part of it with him. A friend of mine said she would watch the kids while Scott and I went and ran, so I figured the hard part was taken care of (thanks Teresa!). 

The race is on the Wapack Trail, which starts at Mount Watatic in Ashburnham, Massachusetts and runs over a few mountains to North Pack Monadnock in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The trail is 21.5 miles one-way, so the Wapack and Back is a 43-mile race (although there is an option to turn around at the finish and go back 3.5 miles and then back to the finish to make an even 50 miles). 

I tried to find a ride to the halfway point at 21.5 miles but was unsuccessful. So then I thought I could either run the first 10 miles and then sit and wait for him to come back along the trail, or run back to the car and wait until he was totally done. Either option required hours and hours of waiting alone, and I wanted all my date time. After all, we had a sitter! We have to make this time count, right?! The other option was to just run the whole thing with him. 

We drove out to a sketchy hotel the night before the race. Scott informed me that this was not a race by my standards and to reinforce that point he said we should eat Wendy's Frostys the night before. So that's the photo above: a new tradition for non-racing. He also got a chicken sandwich that he regretted the next day. 
We woke up super early and got out the door at 4:15. It was rainy and dark at 5:00 when the race started. Sitting around in the rain did not appeal to me nor did sitting in the car, so I decided to go for it. We ran by the light of a headlamp for about a half-hour until the sun came up. The trail was muddy and covered with roots, rocks, leaves and pine needles. I sucked down a pouch of really gross oatmeal paste for breakfast and was surprised that my stomach didn't rebel. My stomach is so finicky in marathons; I feel like I cramp up at the mildest things. But we were running slow so I'm sure that helped digestion. We walked/ power-hiked the uphills and ran anything flat and downhill too. There were a few spots that were too rocky to run on and we had to walk or climb a bit.
But a lot of the trail looked like this: soft pine needles, a few roots, lush green everywhere. It was really pretty. I'm told the views are beautiful but it was so foggy and rainy the whole day we didn't see much beyond a hundred meters or so.
There were aid stations every 7ish miles and they always asked for bib numbers to track the runners. I didn't have one being a shameful bandit, so at first I said I was pacing Scott. But then that seemed a little silly since we clearly weren't going for time by chatting it up at the aid stations. So after admitting that I didn't have a number, I said we were on a date. Which is true. We had a sitter for the kids, so we were on a serious date. The volunteers seemed sympathetic and let me help myself to their water, sandwiches, candy bars, and fruit. I took just enough at each stop, not wanting to carry any extra.
It took us more than five hours to make it the 21.5 miles to the halfway mark. There were some serious mountains that we went up and over, and the rain made all the rocks and roots slick. 
It didn't help that my shoes were not made for trails, so my socks filled with mud and pine needles and my ankles rolled a bit too much. Anyway, it took us a lot longer to finish the last half of the race. Scott got really tired and I led for awhile, then my quads reached their breaking point around mile 38 or so and Scott dragged me the rest of the way. I could jog flats and even slight inclines but anything downhill left me stepping gingerly and slowly. 
Somehow after 11.5 hours we finished. We were completely exhausted and disgustingly dirty. Our feet and especially our toes are shredded. But at the end of it all, Scott was still talking about how we should do it again sometime! I think that was once in a lifetime for me. 
I can check doing an ultra off my bucket list now. I wasn't officially registered but at the finish they gave me a finisher's cookie (no medals here). Someone asked if we were the ones on the date, so word got around that there was someone crazy enough to bandit this race. 

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