Wapack Range 21.5 Trail Race: May 10th, 2014, Race Report
2nd place woman, 1st in age and 8th overall.
Adjusting to new life and landscape….
Last August we relocated our small family across an ocean to a new country, new jobs, new schools and new lands. In many ways the 12 years we have been away from this country have felt like a lifetime and many things are almost foreign back in the USA. One thing that has helped me personally in this adjustment is discovering new places and meeting new people through trail racing in New England. I heard about the Wapack and Back Trail race last fall and decided to make it a spring goal to run this race, which runs 21.5 miles along the length of the Wapack Range. Each day, I look out towards this range. It is much more subtle on the horizon than the distinct Chamonix Aiguilles that have been my backdrop for so many years.
I was lucky to be able to do two reconnaissance runs on the Wapack. The first 1/2 is by far the most technical of the 21.5 miles as it ascends North Pack and Pack Monadnock being the first major climbs. After that the course is sprinkled with shorter ups and downs still riddled with technical sections. You really can’t let your concentration go for a beat or else you will be liable for a twisted ankle or knee.
The rain made for even slicker conditions. The 2nd half of the course goes from Windblown ski area up over a number of climbs into Ashburham, Massachusetts.
Though it’s been a big change for me to adjust to running back in New England and become friends with the trees and bugs, I am loving the technical trail running on roots, steep rocky granite and basalt, moss and trees.
As Scott Livingston, a fellow trail runner describes the Wapack in a write up of the course:
“The Wapack and Back Trail Race is on some of the toughest terrain in New England. If this isn’t an Ultrarunning Magazine 5/5, then I’m not sure what is. The surface (rocks/roots/mud/singletrack) has to be a 5 (very rough trail). The terrain (hills) may fall to a 4, but that is an objective formula. If the reported 10,200 feet of elevation gain is accurate, then that is 204 feet/mile (very hilly) and short of the magazine’s 250 feet/mile (mountainous) criteria for a 5. Yet, my argument is that a New England climb is not the same as a Colorado or California climb. These are punchy steep climbs that come at you relentlessly. Out west, you can get 1,500 feet or more in one ascent.”
So we don’t have the vistas, big climbs and drops like we do in the Alps, but running here is teaching me to be more powerful on the shorter climbs and be friends with the trees . I has been fun getting ready for this race.
I don’t have many friends (here in NH) that would gladly accept to run 10 miles with me in freezing cold rain. Lindsey was game and we had a blast doing the 2nd half of the course recon.
We even took a few wrong turns! Race day the weather was not much different though it was 20 degrees warmer! It was raining at the start, foggy with a high humidity. This made for slick conditions on the rocks. In areas where I might have taken more risks on the downhills, I was a little more cautious. By noon, the fog burned off and the sun was out! The first warm day we have had all Spring! 70 degrees! Apparently so were the bugs. The saying goes…the bugs come out on mother’s day. And so they are here.
My boys and I managed to get out and do some exploring before hand on some local trails to prepare for this race, some of which had similar wooden planks to on the course. We practiced sprinting across the planks and jumping over logs.
I try to get out as much as possible and run/play explore with the boys. We try to make training fun, which is what it should be for children. Running through and across obstacles are all part of it!
Here is a map of this little New Hampshire range.
As you can see from the profile below the first part is the steepest climbing then it is more rolling with one last climb at the end. I loved the course and will definitely try to head back next year. I wanted to do the course in 4h26 but was faster than I thought I was going to be despite the tough conditions. I finished in 4h10 min. just 10 min behind a top New England runner, Kelsey Allen. I was really pleased that my body held up and felt good for the whole distance.
The best part about the finish was being greeted by Birken and friends. The three boys joined me in the last 100 yards to the finish.
Running this race to me has been a metaphor of this year as a transition. Completing it for me is a symbol of surviving the change! Moving a family across oceans, borders, to a new job and new world has been a similar to the challenges faced in this race. The Wapack has steep ups and downs, tough, technical terrain, some rolling, softer mossy sections, some places you can look around and catch your breath and others where you have to be ultra focused and on top of things. The weather was adverse. Rainy and wet caused the rocks to be slick and sometimes dangerous.
Never Really never a dull moment. There were times that I was surrounded by others at the start, but as the going got tough, fewer people were around and even still, at times I was alone, felt almost lost like I was on the wrong path. I continued on, following the yellow marks on the rocks and the tree.
Sometimes the marks faded. Nobody was around me. I followed my intuition and found my way, like I have done this year, following my heart and dreams. Hard work, determination and knowing where the finish line is certainly what helped me get to the end of this race.
What pulled me along further and helped me run faster was knowing that my son would join me at the finish line and run the last few hundred yards with me.
Seeing the smile on my kids faces has kept me going in many races and places in life.
It’s what has helped me find strength this year. That to me is really the best mother’s day present!
Happy Mother’s Day to all mom’s out there who continue to inspire!
A big thank you to Hammer Nutrition, Camelbak, Hoka One One and Adam at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine for their amazing support in helping me cross the finish line with a smile!