Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Wapack

One of my goals for 2017 is to get out and run some new trails.  On top of this, I have a goal to run the entire trail systems when possible.

Southern Trail Head - Mnt Watatic
Last August I got a taste of the Wapack trail in north central Massachusetts / Southern NH.  This past weekend I got back out and ran the full 21.5 miles.  The Wapack starts in Ashburnham, MA, first climbs Mnt Watatic, then Pratt Mnt, New Ipswich Mnt, and through Windblown CC Ski area.  The second half of the run climbs Temple Mnt, Holt Peak, and concludes with ascents of both Pack Monadnock and North Pack Monadnock.  It has some gnarly terrain and weighs in with over 4700' climbing.  This is not your beginner run.

In order to make this run work with our schedule, I had to get up at 4:30 Saturday morning.  That got me to the trail head by 6 with a 5 hour buffer to complete the traverse.  While it was a little wet from Friday's monsoon, it was fairly cool out (55-60).  The first mile was tough one with nearly 600' climbing.  I did a combination of running and hiking trying to keep my HR in check.

Windblown Ski Area
The next few miles weren't too bad until I arrived at the climb for Pratt Mnt.  It wasn't that long a climb, but when you are scrambling on all fours with a 35+% grade, it is difficult to move fast.  Pratt to Ipswich, to Barrett, to Windblown is mostly ridge line with a few hundred feet of rolling technical terrain.

The following four miles presents a nice break with a less technical flatter section.  The honeymoon
ends at mile 13 as you begin the Burton peak ascent.  This mile packs another 570' of climbing.  Going into this climb I had gotten my average pace back under 12 minutes per mile after a couple of 15 minute miles early on.

From here on out my pace started to suffer.  Not sure if I was getting tired or just mentally burnt from all of the technical terrain.  I also knew I had another 7+ miles to go and needed to keep some in the tank.

North Pack Summit
Just after mile 17 you cross route 101 and pass by the parking area for the southern ascent of Pack Monadnock.  As an ultra runner, I always get a chuckle when I pass through a lot like this and see people out for their hike when this represents just a small chunk of my day.  From here, Pack Monadnock is under 2 miles with about 600' of gain.  If you continue on North
Pack it is another mile and half with another 400+ feet of climbing.  Not too bad a day hike.

As I began the ascent I caught a group of early 40 something yr old men decked out in hiking gear complete with trekking poles.  As went bombing by them one of them yelled, "Out for a morning jog?" and retorted with "Yeah, started at Mnt Watatic" and watched his jaw hit the floor.

Northern Trail Head
After crossing mile 20 and knowing the end was near, I was confronted with a crazy technical descent.  I dropped over 600' during the 21st mile and had to be extremely careful on the wet rock before finally making it to the trail head.


In general, I am really happy with how the run went.  I never really bonked or had trouble continuing. 

Things to work on
- Ascending and descending technical terrain.  I just don't do it enough.
- Fueling and hydrating.  I drank 1.5 liters of Tailwind and only consumed about 60-80 calories per hour.  I need to get this up closer to 200 once the longer runs come in to play.  
- Enjoy the scenery.  I spent to much time trying to make sure I keep moving forward even though this wasn't a race.  

At no point during the run was I interested in running back, but maybe I do the race next year.  

What's Next
This run was a test to see if I think I am ready for a single day Pemi Loop, a traverse that has been on bucket list for a while now.  The Pemi packs 29.5 miles with a over 10,000' of climbing.  Date still TBD, but I think I will be ready for it in July sometime. 

- Scot

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