Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More What? - MorFun Wapack End-2-End Race Report

Regular readers of this blog know I like to put a lot of detail into my race reports, at least as much as my tired mind will remember. As much as I'd like to do the same for this report, let me say work has been totally crazy and duties at home and my volunteer work have left me with little free time. An abbreviated Wapack report will have to suffice. Better a short recap than no report at all, right? That brings me to my second thought. I'm not sure if I should be calling these posts "race reports". Although the effort in which I run most of these "races" is harder than a training run, they're usually not all out assaults. I only have one goal race this year and it's the Stone Cat Ale 50 Mile in November. It's not until I prepare for this race that I will add tempo, hills and speed work into my training. That is the only race I expect to leave it all on the course. Until then, I'm having WAY too much fun running many races with friends and not having one bit of worry about my elapsed time. OK, enough babbling.

At first I thought Bogie (the RD) must have named this race "MorFun"to distinguish it from "the other" Wapack race held in late summer. That one is and out-and-back course running from Windblown to Mt. Watatic and back and covering a distance of 17.5 miles. The MorFun Wapack starts at the most northern end of the Wapack trail, at North Pack Monadnock and finishes at the most southern end at Mt. Watatic for a total of 21 miles. I assumed the MorFun referred to the "extra" fun we would have running the additional 3.5 miles. I couldn't have been MorWrong!

View Larger Map

MorFun also means more mountains; 11 of them ranging in elevation from 1,742 feet at Stony Top to 2,290 feet at Pack Monadnock. Three of the mountains are over 2,200 feet. There were also a few lesser hills around 1,400 to 1,600 feet sprinkled in to keep you on your toes so to speak. MorFun also means more elevation, like 10,500 feet of leg numbing elevation gain and loss. That's right, 9.5 miles of lung bursting uphill running and 8.5 miles of quad burning downhills! Get the picture?

Now to the race itself. It was raining lightly as fifty-one fearless runners started the 1.5 mile climb up from the base of North Pack Monadnock. I settled into the middle of the pack and tried to maintain contact with my friend Kevin. It was evident pretty quickly that I could not run his pace and survive 21 miles so I backed off a bit and prepared myself for a long day. I watched as a long train of runners dotted the mountain side along the wet, rocky and root-infested single-track trail.

The climb up the mountain was made more difficult by the wet conditions. It was hard to get any traction on the slanted, granite slabs and I found myself slipping with nearly every step. It didn't take long for me to figure out if I ran flat-footed I was able to keep more of the sole of my shoe in contact with the wet stone. This helped to reduce but not eliminate the slipping and I made better progress. I was passed by several runners during this first climb. I stink at climbing! I chuckled to myself thinking this is a 21 mile race and they will have to pay for it later. When they do, I'll be picking them off one by one. I was wrong. I never saw most of them again!

"Slip Sliding Away" - Simon and Garfunkel up North Pack (Photo credit: Steve Latour)

I did maintain contact with one runner (Betty) after she went past me. We ended up running the rest of the race together except when she got a burst of energy in the final mile or two and scooted off without me. I had a great time running with Betty. She maintained a very positive attitude throughout the race and was constantly smiling and laughing. We even joked about going off course and losing about 15 minutes before finding our way back to the trail. What really surprised me was that this was only her second trail race ever! I guess she likes a real challenge.

Boston Betty trying to keep her feet dry.

At the Windblown aid station (mile 12) we met up with Kevin. He twisted his ankle badly shortly after the mile 5 aid station but decided to hobble his way to Windblown to rest and regroup. He said he wanted to continue the race (that didn't surprise me) but before we left me and Betty changed into dry socks. It wasn't easy keeping your feet dry on this day. Mud and water were plentiful on the trail but my Injinji's kept me blister free! The three of us were on the move and I was happy to be running with Kevin again. Misery loves company.

The first 4 hours had gone pretty smoothly. I kept a regular regular regiment of hydration, calories and electrolytes and it was working well. I had a good level of energy and was feeling fresh considering the terrain and time on my feet. Things started to go south when I switched from Succeed Ultra to Succeed Amino at Windblown. I'm not crazy about the taste of Amino so I started to drink less often after the switch. I think this contributed to my slowdown during the later stages of the race. That, and the fact my CamelBak MULE weighed about 10 lbs fully loaded!

The run from Windblown to the Binney Hill aid station at mile 16 involved two killer climbs up Barrett and New Ipswich Mountains. The climbs were long and steep and the bugs seemed to be getting worse by the minute. It was here where my energy began to wain and maintaining pace was harder than before. We celebrated the end of the climbs with a photo shoot on both summits. This gave me chance to catch my breath and to cool down a bit. Despite the clouds and fog, there were some nice views from the mountain tops.

Are were there yet?

Smiles return when the climbing is over.

I was very happy when we made it to the Binney Hill Road aid station. Next stop would be the finish line. The volunteers at this station were as friendly and helpful as all the previous ones had been. Hats off the them! We hydrated here and I also found some nice treats at the station. Candy fruit slices are one of my favorites! I enjoy one or two of them, or may three before leaving. When it comes to sweets, I'm a kid at heart. Betty and Kevin were ready to go so I followed them onto the trail. As I was leaving the aid station I called back to a runner who was still lingering there. I told her to "get a move on" and join us for the final push to the finish. She came along and now we were 4 strong.

Candy makes me happy!

We had one more mountain to climb and I was a little worried about it. Much to my surprise the climb up Mt. Watatic didn't seem nearly as bad as I remembered it from when I ran it last year at "the other" Wapack race. Was my mind totally numb by then? I don't know but whatever the reason, this climb was uneventful. Betty and Kevin ran ahead at this point and I was left with the runner we picked up at Binney Road.

In my fatigued state I forgot my manners and never introduced myself to her but she was very nice and I enjoyed running the final mile with her. We talked about trail running, snowshoe racing, the benefits of ART and so many other things that I almost forget how tired my legs had become. Soon we descended Watatic and made the turn to run the last 1/4 mile to the finish. With about 200 yards to go the 50 mile winner ran past me. I congratulated him on a great race and he said something like "This was the hardest day of my life." I agreed 100%. When I crossed the line I was greeted by Betty, Kevin and my friend Michelle who kicked a$$ and ran the course in 5 hours! We hung out for a while and then me , Kevin and Michelle went to get something to eat. We were starving!

Paying homage to the Wapack Trail.

Michelle took us to her favorite "dive bar", her words, not mine. I thought it was great and the beer was ice cold! Funny thing about dive bars. No one even noticed 3 smelly, mud-caked people sitting at the bar. We sat around talking about what we had just accomplished but soon moved on to what was next on the race calender. We all decided to run Soapstone Mountain this Sunday. I was psyched because I have wanted to run the race for the past 3 years but never made it there. My excitement was short-lived when Michelle blurted out, "Yeah, Soapstone is a hard race." Damn! Some things are best left unsaid.

On to the next challenge....

More Race Photos Here. Many thanks to KZ for taking them.

Steve Latour's race photos and hilarious comments Here


  1. Loved the pics, and the report! I am yet to master the art of running races for fun (rather than time). I am really hoping to be able to join you guys for some trail races. I just need to find some that are not too far away.
    Nice work at Wapack! Ana

  2. Ana, there's nothing wrong with that. When I was your age I too wanted to always run faster and win my age group. To me, that WAS fun!! I've mellowed since then and gotten much slower too ;-). Run fast while you can. You have a whole lifetime to run for fun.

  3. Dan, Great job. I hiked that course last fall with a bunch of friends in the rain. I can't imagine running it.

  4. Way to go Dan!

    This is why we are fool enough to want to challenge the longer, more rugged races. These races are often a test of speed and stamina, but they also test mental toughness and heart. Bonk during a road race and you have people close at hand - bonk during a trail race and it is just you, the bugs, and the elements. If your lucky another trail animal might come ambling by!

    Finishing these races means WAY more than some kooky weekend 5k with the 'normal' people!

    Trav's will be a nice break after Soapstone and Wapack!


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