Monday, September 28, 2009

So Far . . . So Good

Just a quick update today. After looking back over the RTB week, I realized that I unintentionally set a weekly mileage PR, logging 75 miles from Sunday through Saturday. An anomaly, yes, but I'm very encouraged by the volume, the paces during RTB and what has been a remarkably efficient recovery from all that effort.

After RTB, I ran easy on Sunday through Wednesday, and then did another LT/HMP (half-marathon pace) workout on Thursday. I ran 3+ miles to the track, then knocked off 2x2 miles at goal HMP pace. It was quite windy, but otherwise a nice day. The HMP miles came out to 6:46/6:38 and 6:42/6:40. My HR was where it should have been, peaking at 174 bpm. I ran a hilly HM last November where my HR stayed at around 175 bpm from Mile 3until the end, so I take that to be my "half-marathon heart rate", as explained by Coach Brad Hudson in "Run Faster".

The other running highlight from last week was this cycle's first 20-miler. On Saturday, I did 20.3 miles at an average pace of 8:27, average HR of 145, with 3000-feet of elevation gain. My hips were a bit tight, but not too bad, and - all things considered - I'm very pleased with where things stand at the moment. Last week's total was around 56 miles, but that's a two-week average of 65+-miles per week.

In other news, it was a festival of racing weekend for many in my running circle, with friends of mine running the Applefest Half-Marathon, Clarence deMar full marathon and Vermont 50-miler. Lots of successful running, with virtually everyone I know meeting or exceeding his/her racing goals. Their commitment and success is contagious.

So, with the Bay State Half-Marathon on October 18th and the Manchester Marathon pacing gig and ultra-run on November 1st, here's what's in store this week:
  • Monday - 5M easy, 4 outside and 1 mile indoors barefoot; core strength work (along with "net" fasting for Yom Kippur, by eating only the number of calories burned by exercise)
  • Tuesday - 12M, with more LT/HMP work
  • Wednesday - 8-10M, easy
  • Thursday - 7-8M, during "free time" at non-profit board retreat; maybe add hill sprints
  • Friday - 6M easy
  • Saturday - 8M on the trails
  • Sunday - 18-20, easy

Week's total should come out to about 65 miles. This is my last week to bang out the mileage and quality, since I'll be within two weeks of Bay State after Sunday's long run, and while not formally "tapering" for that race, I will need to think about resting my legs some if I'm to have any chance of hitting my sub-1:30 goal.


Monday, September 21, 2009

A Running Orgy - RTB 2009 RR

That's the best way I have found to describe the festival of running which is the Reach the Beach Relay, unless you go with the overused "The most fun you can have with your [running] clothes on". 420 teams of up to 12 runners covering 209 miles from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire in anywhere from 20 to more than 30 hours. This was my second year as part of "Long Time, No Sea" (I take no credit - nor blame - for the name), a co-ed team consisting mostly of members of my local running club and some members of our extended running circle. While getting my BQ this year is indubitably 2009 Running Highlight #1 (not that I'll make an ESPN end-of-year montage or anything, but you get the drift), RTB 2009 was a close second.

I'll try here to do what I do not normally do, and spare my faithful reader the endless prologue and cut to the Race Report.

Having missed the organizational team meeting, I asked merely for any runner position totaling 20+ miles, to be run in three legs. Consequently, I was given the first position, and thus assigned to run an 8-mile leg (#1), a 3.9-mile leg (#13) and a 9.4+-mile leg (#25). The race involves a staggered start, with the expected slowest teams starting early Friday morning, and the fastest teams starting late Friday afternoon. We started at 2:00 p.m., rather late for a team coming off of a top-third finish in 2008, and who lost two of its fastest runners.

LEG #1 - 8.2 Miles from Cannon Mountain to Beaver Brook Wayside Rest Area

Having stood around in the cold rain, I decided I needed a warm-up mile, so I took an easy jog around Cannon Mountain and previewed the start of the course, a screaming downhill on a loose dirt and rock trail. Add the rain into the mix, and you could almost imagine the oddsmakers figuring out the probabilities of who would fall. About 15 runners lined up, and with the announcers proclamation, we were off. I felt my legs scrambling beneath me on the steep descent, as a couple of guys slingshotted ahead. I tried to find a rhythm until I saw that I was running a low 6-minute pace, unsustainable for me over 8 miles, even with a generous elevation drop. I reigned myself in, and ran the first mile in about 6:30.

At this point, the wind and rain would come and go, and the second mile had a killer hill. I was just on the wrong side of 7 minutes, but kept telling myself that there was a whole heck of a lot of running left.

On the right is a pic of me during Leg #1 courtesy of one of my teammates:

Around Mile 3, I saw my team (the non-running members serve as crew and leap-frog the runner along the route), drank some water and ditched my gloves. As soon as I did, the rain picked up and the temperature seemed to drop 10 degrees, feeling like it was in the 40's at this. I reminded myself about the similarities to Sugarloaf (even the scenery was comparable), and how well that turned out for me.

The miles ticked by, and I talked to a guy running with a team of kayakers. He was moving pretty well and asked me about the pace. I told him we were running around 6:45-6:50, and he said it was too slow. He took off ahead.

As we passed the 6-mile mark, I realized I might have been flirting with my 10K PR. I didn't confirm that, but it was a good feeling. Kayak-Guy and I were still close, and somewhere around Mile 7+, he stopped to tie his shoe. I caught him, we chatted and we decided to make a move on the guy in the red shirt ahead of us. Kayak-Guy was fading, and I tried to push it, but the cruelty of the leg was that the last mile climbs, making it tough to pick up the pace. So, while I left Kayak-Guy behind, I only closed about half the distance to Mr. Redshirt.

Still, I was very happy with the run: 8.2 miles in 55:16, a 6:45 average pace.

Leg #2 - Brett School to Community School

After completing Legs 1-6, we passed off to runners 7-12, a.k.a., Van 2. That gave us time to eat and re-group for our series of nighttime runs. Having learned from last year's dining errors, I went with simple food, eating a Caesar salad with grilled tuna and sweet potato fries. I skipped dessert (no brownie sundae for me this year) and drank two iced teas, along with some water. We finished dinner and headed for the next transition area, which looked all-too-familiar to me, since I believed I had taken the baton there in 2008, when I was in the #2 Runner position. I mentioned it casually, but did not insist that I was sure that we were ahead by one transition area. Sure enough,a s we waited and waited for Runner #12 to show up, we got the dreaded call from the other half of our team, wondering where the eff we were. We drove the 4 miles back to the last area, and my teammates all but pushed me out of a moving van to get me going. I heard a Van 2 member call out, "You guys officially suck!" I took off way too fast into the night' dark chill. Around a half-mile in, I realized that I was running about 6:20 pace, and this leg had some decent climbs. I passed a few people, tried to say something encouraging, and motored on to the next transition area, making up a little bit of time from my projected 7:00 pace.

Total: 3.93 miles in 26:56 for a 6:51 average pace

Leg #3 - Bear Brook Park to the Deerfield Fairgrounds

This was not only the longest of my legs, but it was also the longest of the whole relay, slated to be around 9.4 miles. The distance didn't worry me (much), but the elevation profiled was daunting, with big hills at miles 1 and 3 and what looked like a killer climb in Mile 5. After that, I knew it was downhill most of the way to the handoff at the Fairgrounds.

Several runners started as I waited for my teammate to arrive, including a hip-looking "dude" who took off in the wrong direction. He was wearing oversized 80's-style sunglasses, and had the hair to go with it. After what seemed like a long wait, I took the snap bracelet from B at the park and took off, consciously trying to pace more slowly than I had during my first two legs.

I took the first mile pretty smoothly, enjoyed the downhill in Mile 2, and saw my team as I crested the hill at the end of Mile 3. I took a Roctane gel and girded myself for the next couple of miles.

Mile 4 was mostly uneventful, though I did pass Wrong Way Guy. He told me his quads were hurting, especially on the downhills. I suggested that he shorten his stride, and I wished him luck. When I bumped into him a few transition areas later, he told me that he'd done that and that it helped a lot.

Then came Mile 5. I had been moving pretty well until that point, averaging around 7:20/mile. That mile took me over 8:20, and the last stretch of the last steep hill climb bordered on power-walking, but once I crested it, I got the spring back in my step. I passed couple more people, saw my team again at Mile 6 (where I yelled, "I love running", probably much too loudly) and then pushed the pace as much as my legs would allow past horse farms and stately rural homes.

With about 1.25 miles left, I came up on a muscly guy who seemed to be struggling. I ran next to him and we chatted. He was from Boston, and he was at his limit. I told him it would be far more satisfying if we could run it in together. He seemed agreeable, and I tried to psyche him up. When I asked him if he was ready to "do this", he said yes. When I said we had less than a mile to go, he seemed happy. When I said, "Let's pick it up now!", he said "Okay". But his pace didn't change. He had nothing left in the tank, a feeling I know all-too-well. So, I left him behind and picked up the pace.

When my watch told me that I'd passed the 9-mile mark, I knew I was close, and that my RTB 2009 experience was coming to an end. I gave it what I had left, and I ran the last 0.4 miles at 6:48 pace, finishing at low-5:00 pace, my arms pumping and my head pointed straight ahead.

As I reached the hand-off area, I raised my hands as if I'd just finished a marathon (and placed well - lol). It was great - and a bit sad - to be done. I received a nice complement from one of the teams we'd been passing since the night before, with two vans decked out with lighted gnomes on top. "The gnomes say you run well", one of the guys told me. High praise indeed.

Total: 9.36 miles in 1:09:25 for a 7:25 average pace, & 2200+ feet of elevation gain

One More Leg - Keeping J Company

With marathon training in mind, and feeling surprisingly functional after 21.5 miles at half-marathon pace (or at least effort), I offered to pace one of my teammates during her final 5.5-mile leg. She's a newer runner, and seemed tired and a bit intimidated by this final leg. We took off from a small local arts college, and within a half-mile someone yelled to her, "You can take him!" We laughed and chatted as the hills came and went. The wind picked up, and I had her tuck behind me. She was running very well, until somewhere in Mile 4 when she stopped chatting and started digging deep.

I kept talking, but asked her if I should shut up. She said I should keep talking, so I did. We were passed by a tiny Asian woman moving gracefully along. I said that she should be handicapped for having no body fat. J thought the woman resembled her cousin's wife. She learned later that it was her cousin's wife.

J held on strong during the final mile, then the final hill, then less than a half-mile. I did what I could to "pull" her along, and she get an extra boost as the exchange area came into view. I left her with about a quarter-mile to go, peeling off to the right and re-joining my teammates a moment later.


After our van runners finished, we went in search of food. The consensus was that pizza and beer would be perfect, so we found a divey local restaurant/bar in a strip mall and ordered up. The waitress was a rugged woman, with tattoos all over her arms. She basically barked at us from the moment we sat down, but she seemed to warm up to us. The draft beers and Mediterranean pizza was like manna from heaven. We all agreed that it was the best we'd ever had, though we don't expect to return to that establishment to test whether our opinions would hold true under less extreme circumstances.

Fed and "rehydrated", we made our way to Hampton Beach State Park for the end of the race. We got the ETA from the other van, negotiated awful traffic and got there in time (unlike last year). We walked out onto the beach and soaked our feet in the cold water of the Atlantic Ocean. We waited for B to arrive amidst music and throngs of tired, sweaty, happy people. B came motoring in, and the rest of us valiantly tried to get our creaky, stiffened bodies to match her pace. We all crossed the finish line together, received our medals and posed for team photos.

We finished in the top third overall and in our division. As I checked the results, I chatted with a guy with a heavy accent. Turns out that he's Italian and that he found his team amidst the results exactly one spot above ours, having beaten us by 4 seconds over the course of 209+ miles. We laughed about it, and my thoughts drifted to the blown transition. Still, it's hard to imagine anything more fun than this event.

The things to love about RTB are that it brings together some 4000 or so runners in a way that nothing else does. There are near-elites and people who are not sure they can complete their three legs. But everyone is striving to be healthy, to test their limits, to share their passion with friends (the kind they know and the ones they meet along the way) and the overall feeling is nothing short of joyous. For a guy who blew off Rosh Hashanah in favor of a running event, the thing bordered pretty closely on a spiritual experience.

For as long as I'm fit enough to do it, I hope to be able to enjoy taking part in the Reach the Beach Relay. Perhaps some other athletic experience will rival it, but right now it's tough to imagine.

Thanks for reading. -ESG

Monday, September 14, 2009

"I'm Shipping Up to Boston" & Other Nuggets

The Dropkick Murphy's have fueled many a rough patch during my training in the past year or more with their incredibly angry working-man anthem. It's the kind of song that grabs you buy the lapels, shakes you hard and screams in your face for 3 minutes. I must have played that song 50 times as I trained for Sugarloaf. And, now, as of September 10, 2009, I am registered for the 2010 Boston Marathon! The BAA need only verify my results, and I'll have the hard-earned privilege of training through the winter in search of my tiny piece of running history. I'll declare - subject to change as the inevitable vicissitudes of training so decree - my Boston goal: 3:10 (meaning that I would achieve the "open" male qualifying standard). Since there's so much time and mileage between here and there, it's little more than a semi-abstract idea, a formless lump of clay to be chiseled and whittled and shaped by what I hope will be another round of solid, injury-free training.

Incidentally, I hope and expect to follow a nice Boston PR with a new PW (personal worst) six days later at the Big Sur Marathon. Yes, on behalf of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation my first 2010 fundraiser will running 2 marathons on opposite coasts 6 days apart. Many more ambitious people have undertaking far more demanding endeavors, but I don't think Big Sur will be much more than a glorified power-walk, albeit in what by all accounts is a spectacular setting.

I have been doing a lot of thinking this past week, about life, family, work and - yes - running. Several factors seem to have converged to make me feel better about all of these areas, but whatever running rut I felt I was in seems to be passing, or perhaps has already passed. The reasons, in no particular order:
  • Signing up for Boston to Big Sur - 'nuff said
  • Reading Christopher McDougall's master work, "Born to Run"; I plan to review it, but there's so much to celebrate in that book, that I doubt I could it justice
  • Running Wapack - having fun in a new race setting while performing reasonably well was just what I needed
  • Focusing on some tangible goals - After getting shut out of the Bay State half-marathon, I was granted a late entry; I hope to go sub-1:30 on October 18th (or get darned close); also, November 1st is looming , which means I need to focus on leading the Manchester Marathon's 3:50 Pace Group, followed by the extra 11.8 fundraising miles; I started fundraising for that last week (see link at the top right of the blog)
  • Deciding to write a running book - this may be an idea which never gets off the ground, but I'd like to write a book for runner's like me, middle-of-the-pack-ers who are dedicated and passionate; the main point: to try to convey the joy of running and perhaps provide an accessible glimpse into how and why runners are how we are; if it helps somebody train a little better, great; if it provokes a laugh or two, excellent; if it lands me a 6-figure deal, fantastic! :-)

All of that within a training week that looked like this:

  • Monday - 20 minutes easy on the stationary bike; light weights and stretching
  • Tuesday - 5 miles easy (quite sore)
  • Wednesday - 8 easy (still sore)
  • Thursday - 6.2 easy (slightly sore)
  • Friday - 10.5 progression run
  • Saturday - 5.25 on trails, plus 1.25 barefoot on indoor track
  • Sunday - 17.1 miles, very hilly at 8:34 average pace and sub-150 average HR (longest run since Sugarloaf)

Total was about 54 miles, and that was after a 3 1/2-hour race. Suddenly, it feels like I'm getting into shape again and very much enjoying my running.

The plan for this week is to log 55-ish miles, including 20+ at about half-marathon pace at the Reach the Beach relay on Friday and Saturday. More on that later.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Wow-pack! A Trail Race Report

Awesome and humbling.

Those are the two words which first came to mind after I finished my first long trail race, the Wapack Trail Race, from New Ipswich, NH to Ashburnham, MA . . . and back. The race involves climbing and descending four small mountains, reaching a turnaround, and then doing it all again. Anyone wishing to behold the stunning views from Mounts Barrett, New Ipswich, Pratt and Watatic must earn his or her way. If trail races were college courses, I skipped the 100 and 200 level courses and went straight for the advanced graduate seminar. A potentially ill-conceived decision that nonetheless turned out well.

So . . . drum roll, please . . . I ran the 17.5-mile 2009 Wapack Trail Race in 3:33 (officially) and 3:28 (on my watch - more on that later). I came in 30th out of about 90 runners, and - most importantly - I did not get hurt. All in all, a very satisfying and enjoyable initiation into the sport of distance trail racing.


I woke up just ahead of my alarm, which I'd set for 5:45 am, and went into my usual pre-long race breakfast and prep routine. 2 cups strong French Roast; 2 bowls of Honey-Nut Cheerios; one Greek-style yogurt; one banana; a few glasses of water. Then I mixed my drinks: Accelerade for before the race; Gatorade during. I got dressed, checked and re-checked my gear, watch, sunglasses, etc. The one possible miscalculation on my part was that I wore only a thin long-sleeved tech shirt over my sleeveless RaceReady shirt (bright yellow, so that I would be easily visible if I ended up strewn in a heap on the side of the trail). When I left the house a few minutes after 7:00 am, the car thermometer read 48 degrees. That number would drop to 44 before slowly creeping back up during the drive, but I had not packed gloves or a headband for my ears. I trusted that I'd be fine once I got moving, and that the day's forecast would hold true.

I found the start area with little trouble, though there was the usual minor hitch with the MapQuest directions (which missed one critical turn). A few miles from the race start, I pulled over to let a car pass me and when I saw the vanity plate (a reference to mountain climbing), I knew it was going to the same place. I arrived at about 8:15 to a pretty full parking lot, and milled about with others in the chilly morning air. I took my turn in the outhouse line, picked up my bib and the nice running hat they provided and found my running club mate Chris, with whom I'd planned to run in the early going, until one of us decided to forge ahead or fall back.

In the small parking area, I ran into a notable area ultrarunner, known as Sherpa John, and said hey. He was wearing flame-patterned arm sleeves and matching trail gaiters. I wondered whether I'd regret not having that gear (always thinking about gear, I know). John, Chris and I chatted I shivered slightly in the shade. As the start time neared, I stripped off my long-sleeve shirt, donned the race hat, got my two hand-held bottles all set and joined the others at the start area. I listened closely to the pre-start instructions, in particular the warnings regarding how to avoid getting lost. I wasn't sure I understood what the Race Director said about which forks to take when, and where the trail was most confusing, but I knew that was part of the whole "trail race" experience.


The race starts up what - comparatively speaking - is a relatively manageable dirt fire road, before breaking right and formally entering the Wapack Trail itself. I wanted to start "easy", like a training run, and settle into the rhythm and feeling of the race. I also wanted desperately NOT to burn out too early. As much as I had heard about the difficulty of this course, I was being conservative, perhaps to a fault. Chris simply couldn't start so slow, and left me in the dust by the middle of the first tough climb.

With Chris quickly leaving my sights, I basically let myself fall into the second or third "group" of runners ( I use quotes because we thinned out pretty quickly) and did what the experienced runners did. When they walked, I walked. When they started running again, I did the same. I had no designs on being a hero, no concern for my time, and cared only minimally about my place (I'd hoped to finish in the top half).

The first climb was not runnable, turning into a hard vertical scramble. I has toggled my screen to display my heart rate, and it was surprising to see that my HR reached its highest level during the parts of the race where I was NOT running. As I saw the display reach the mid- to high-170's, I realized that it would have been fatal for me to push any harder at this point.

We were blessed with a spectacular day, cool and crisp with the sun providing a sharp light that enhances the beauty and clarity of an already breathtaking landscape. As we crested Mount Barrett, I looked over and saw a spectacular panoramic view. When I stumbled and almost fell flat on my face, I realized that this was not really a sightseeing expedition, and I needed to maintain focus if I was going to get out of this race in one piece.

The rest of the way out was marked by ups and downs of varying degrees of difficulty. Perhaps the toughest challenge was mastering the divided-attention task of being mindful of one's footing while also staying on the path marked by small yellow triangles emblazoned on trees and rocks. Those little triangles were my lifeline, and I felt comforted each time I noticed one, especially when there'd seem to be an apparently unmarked stretch.

At around Mile 5, there was an aid station, on another dirt fire road. I refilled my bottles and forged on, glad to be able to run - however slowly - for a good long stretch. The volunteers were nice, but no-nonsense, marking bib numbers and wishing us well.

During much of the first half, I would run with a couple of people, then either pull ahead or fall behind. It was nice to chat briefly, but we were all working hard and trying to stay upright. There was also a fair amount of polite jockeying for position, along with gracious step-asides so that someone could pass on the narrowest parts of the trail. I became especially wary of running behind someone on the steepest downhills, worried that a slip could result in more than just a single casualty. One woman who was near me said it was her goal to run the entire distance, regardless of how slow that had to be. I wished her luck with that.

Somewhere around Mile 6.5-7, I saw the leaders heading back. They were flying, their feet barely seeming to touch the ground as the deftly maneuvered through the rocky, rooty, rugged terrain. Numbers 1 and 2 were only about 10 seconds apart. After cresting Mount Watatic, we navigated the toughest downhill of all, and that's where I first lost the trail. There were runners and hikers around, and I could see the trail a good ways below me, but I'd missed a switchback somewhere and had to take a straight vertical descent to get back to the trail. This produced my only full-blown wipeout of the day, as my feet merely went out from under me just a few steps from rejoining the trail. I landed on my left hand, with my bottle cushioning the impact, Gatorade spraying everywhere. Another runner was passing at that moment, and he seemed to snicker a bit, but I popped up and got right back on the trail and kept running. That resulted in the only blood spilled for me on this day, with a nice scrape on the middle knuckle of my left hand.

When I reached the turnaround, my watch read about 1:39, about 5 minutes faster than I had expected to get there. In an odd lapse of preparation, I failed to turn off the "auto-pause" feature on my watch, so I lost a little time at each aid station and during some of the slowest technical ascents. It was a tad disconcerting to be working hard to scramble up the side of a mountain, only to have your watch tell you that you're moving so slow, your forward progress is not even registering.

I thanked the gracious volunteers and worked my way back from whence I came.

THE SECOND HALF (aka, "Negative split? That's a good one")

As I embarked upon the return trip, I still had lovely dreams of a negative split, and I will continue to nourish those dreams if and when I return to this race, as it was not to be this year. Once I saw that the first return mile took me close to 16 minutes, I realized that I just needed to focus on maintaining my forward progress, staying on the trail and not getting hurt.

The ascents on the return were incredibly difficult, though I was buoyed a bit when I saw other runners still on their way "out". We all encouraged one another, and I did pass a couple of groups of day hikers with wonderfully exuberant kids who cheered us on.

I got back to the Mile 5 aid station, and asked if I might have a chance to catch the leaders. One volunteer remarked dryly, "They probably just finished." I replied - smiling - that that was a bit harsh to hear, and he said that the lead woman was only a few minutes ahead. I noted that I've lost many races to many women, and was not motivated by knowing that a talented female runner was ahead of me. They told me that I was somewhere in the top third to top half, so that wasn't too bad. I refilled my bottles and soldiered on.

Returning along the fire road was a blessing, and it allowed me to run an 8:30 mile. At this point, I was getting tired, and while I definitely had enough reserves to run more/harder than I did at times, I was getting worried that my fatiguing legs would betray me, and go out from under me at a moment's notice. I fell into a groove with a few different men at this point, mostly older, and chatted briefly. I lost the trail a few times, but never for more than a couple hundred yards.

The worst part of the return was probably the ascent of Mount New Ipswich, with its phantom peak that just about sucked my soul out when I realized that I was not at the top. The mountain tops in this area are all marked by large jagged slabs of granite, resulting in more of a bounding motion than a smooth running cadence. The little yellow triangles also got tougher to spot as I grew wearier.

At some point, I assumed I'd just crested Mount Barrett for the last time, and got a little bit of a an extra boost. I started running harder, looking around to see if I could tell how far I was from the finish. I monitored the white chalk X's painted on the trails which we were to avoid and saw another yellow shirt in the distance. A camera-toting race volunteer told me that i was "almost there", with the next turn giving me a straight downhill finish. I saw the guy ahead of me, and started to run harder. I was steadily gaining on him, but I realized I didn't have enough room to catch him, so I eased up and came in about 5 seconds behind him. I put my hands up like you do during your first marathon and was thrilled to be done.

It was then that I looked for Chris, whom I figured finished way ahead of me and then left. Turns out that the unfortunate guy got completely off the trail, and he finally got to the finish more than 30 minutes after I did. He was understandably ticked, and I could see him seething. He said he'd be taking a break from running for a few weeks, in favor of doing some hunting. He seemed ready to kill something right then and there with his bare hands.

I ate some pizza, drank my first real Coke in ages and stretched a little bit. I spoke with a number of other runners, all veterans of ultra runs and trail races, and I enjoyed their company and stories very much. It was a great introduction to trail racing, albeit a pretty harsh one in terms of the difficulty level.


As one online running friend asked, did I have a religious conversion? Not really. I have no desire to scrap road running and focus only on trails and ultras . . . at least not now. I certainly have some marathon goals to continue to chase, but I see myself shooting for a trail ultra next year, hopefully on a more forgiving course. The vibe of trail racing, the low-key nature of the event, the irrelevance of pace, all of those things are very appealing. The scenery and serenity of being in the woods for so long is also a major plus.
Here are a few numbers, just for fun:
  • Slowest mile - 17+ minutes
  • Fastest mile - 8:31
  • Age Group Place - 8th
  • Average Heart Rate - 160
  • Elevation Gain - 5300+ feet
  • Number of Falls - 1
  • Number of Stumbles - 10-ish
  • Fluid Ounces Consumed - 100+ (water & Gatorade)
  • Gels - 3 (1 Accelerade; 2 Gu Roctanes)
  • Cuts - 1
  • Scrapes/abrasions - 6 or so
  • Blisters - 2
  • Sore Muscles - how many are there from the waist down?
  • Times I Thought About Dropping Out - 0 (never even crossed my mind for a second)
Of course, as several runners told me afterwards, it is tough to be a good road and trail runner, since the skills and training are different for each pursuit. I was woefully undertrained for this event, especially for the "power-hiking" parts of the uphills. At this point, my legs are still pretty sore, especially my calves, but not in a debilitating way, and less so than after my 4 road marathons.

Still, if I needed a race to help me feel good about running again (and restore some of my faith in my own abilities), Wapack did the trick. It was a glorious adventure, and an auspicious start to what I hope will be more and longer trail racing in the future. Oh yeah, and I think it was probably a decent overall workout, too.