For the second straight year I ran my age on my birthday. This year the magic number was 36 and thanks to the policy at work where you get to take your birthday off, I had plenty of time to work with.
Last year I ran from Bridgton to Windham, ME while on vacation. This year I was looking for a challenge closer to home and decided I would give the Wapack trail a try. After my DNF at Big Horn, I decided that I would get as much technical running in as a I could this year and the Wapack did not disappoint.
The Wapack begins in northern central Massachusetts (Ashburnham) and goes north up to Pack Monadnock (See http://www.wapack.org/). The trail is 21.5 miles in length. My plan was to run out 18 and then turn around and retrace my steps.
As we got closer to the day (and realizing this may be an aggressive endeavor), I turned to my friend Greg, an avid ultra runner, and asked if he wanted to join for all or part of it. He responded with "Sure, but can we start at 5AM. I need to be to work by 10:30."
So at 3:45am, on August 11th, my alarm went off and it was time to hit the road. On the drive out I knew it was going to be an tough day as the humidity was so high I had to have the wipers on for the entire 1-hour drive.
For fuel and hydration I packed the usual, camel pack of water with a bunch of gummy things to eat. The main difference is I also packed my water filter as I knew the 1.5 liters wasn't going to cut it. I was even a little bit excited about refilling my pack from natural sources on the trail.
I met Greg at the trail head a few minutes after 5 and to my surprise, it was still pitch dark. Luckily enough Greg had his head lamp (I failed to plan for this) and with 550' of climbing over technical terrain for the first mile we were going to be primarily hiking it anyways.
As we crested Mt. Watatic (22 minutes) the sun began to rise and we started jogging down hill. Shortly there after the terrain flattened and we hit a fire road and as we picked up speed we blew straight through our turn and lost the trail. After a little bit of retracing, we found the trail again, but were losing time quickly.
As we hit mile 6 we had another climb that felt like it went on forever (about 430' over 2/3 mile) and when we finally crested the peak (Pratt Mt), we had trouble finding the trail again. Once we were back on track we dropped a little bit before climbing New Ipswich Mt (8.7 miles in) where Greg had to turn back in order to get to work.
Luckily the terrain became more runnable and I was able to start dropping my pace some (even throwing in a sub 9 minute mile) before I hit Turnpike road, where I turned around.
On the way back I concentrated on keeping a good pace as I climbed back throw the Windblown Cross Country Ski course while simultaneously keeping my heart rate in check.
After ascending New Ipswich Mt for the second time, I finally stopped to refill my pack. Luckily it had poured the night before and their was ample water pools on the rocks. After filling the pack with my filter and pump I was off again, roughly 15 miles in and already haven taking a serious beating. One way or another I was getting through 21 more miles today.
Just after completing mile 19, I was back at the car and the first leg of my journey was over. Time to refuel and rehydrate before heading back for another 17.
Part 1: 19 Miles, 4:08:53, 3525' climbing, 13:03 / mile.
After picking up a Snickers, Power Aid, water, and a 45 minute drive, I arrived in Concord Center. I head up to and past Walden, over to the deCordova sculpture park where I picked up the trails.
The first few miles weren't too bad and I was able to hold sub 9's for all of them. It was getting quite hot (mid 80's) and was still crazy humid out. I looped around Flint Pond and then worked my way back towards Route 2 before landing in the back of the Walden parking lot around mile 7.5. 9.5 more to go.
I refilled my water at Walden, ran a half lap around the Pond and then head back out into the trails into the backwoods of Lincoln. As I got back to Walden just after mile 11, I told myself that if I ran another lap, then I could take a 10 minute break and cool off in the water. At this point I was really starting to struggle and was pushing to just keep moving.
Roughly 13 minutes later I completed my lap, tossed my camel pack and shoes to the side and jumped in. What I didn't account for was how much all the chafing from the sweating and humidity was going to sting. Still the water felt great and I dropped about 5' below the surface where it was even cooler.
A few minutes later I was back on my feet having wrung the water out of my shirt and socks. I put my shoes back on and headed on my way. After a huge hand full of gummy bears at mile 34, I made my way back to Concord Center and then did a short 1.5 mile out and back to complete my journey.
Part 2: 17 Miles, 2:37:15, 556' climbing, 9:15 / mile
As a reward I bought a large ice coffee (which lasted all of 10 seconds) before heading home. All and all a pretty good day and one of the toughest runs I have ever completed. The weather was definitely not in my favor this year.
Special thanks to Greg for running with me and all the support I received throughout the day, even all of those of you who repeatedly told me I was crazy :).
Quotes from FB:
"Nicely done. You need to move your birthday to cooler weather"
"You're nuts man, Happy Birthday!"
"You're an Animal! Don't Stop!"
"Happy Birthday to my inspiring and CRAZY cousin!"
353 days until the year 37 edition.