We had gathered at his place to watch Unbreakable (again) and scope out spring and summer races. Ian had mentioned the Wapack and Back 50 to me several weeks before and it seemed like a truly appealing race, an out-and-back on the Wapack trail in MA that two of our most bad-ass team members Val and Mindy had already set their sights on.
From the race website:
Most of my training runs consisted of running the Knight Woods trail at Bradbury Mountain, a 1 mile loop with a small hill in the middle. I would run this 10, then 12, then 15 times in order to get as many trail miles in as I could while not straying too far from the car in case the ankle gave out.
Until 3 weeks before the race I considered dropping down the 17k distance at Traprock due to the setback from the injury and the subsequent lack of training. Then, after a long run on a rainy Tuesday morning I texted Jordan to say "50k at Traprock is on". I felt like we had made a commitment to one another and with my ankle in good shape I saw no reason to back out of our biggest training run for Wapack and Back.
We arrived in CT on the evening before the race and got a good night of rest before a beautiful day of running.
|Ian ready to rip it up|
|TM Ultra Team|
The rest of the team, Ian, Joe, Ben, and Nate where having a great day on the trails and I saw them periodically as they came cruising down the backs of trails that I was just beginning to climb. With a 3 loop course and several lollipop sections I could see that they were all doing really well and tearing up the Traprock. I ended up a getting a bit ahead of Jordan on some of the climbs and found myself suddenly feeling better than I ever had at mile 23-24 of a 50k. I ran evenly and easily and found myself suddenly alone on a gorgeous stretch of singletrack that was just glowing in the midday sun. As I was enjoying the solitude of the trails I noticed the faint sound of breathing and the crunch of footsteps behind me. I turned to see Jordan coming fast and hard. Suddenly we were neck and neck and pushing the pace. We pulled into an aid station together and took exactly 5 seconds to down a drink and race back out onto the trail. Next aid station same thing-in and out and after each other again. Yet, even with us running neck and neck it didn't feel like we were racing each other. It felt like we were running a race together and was one of the most unique and enjoyable experiences that I've ever shared with a friend on the trails. I could still see either of us taking the lead at this point and the possibility of a duel finish was still on my mind as well.
I'd held back a bit on the second loop in the hopes of a strong finish and as we arrived at the middle of the last loop I felt a surge of strength and began to push hard. I ran the climbs that I'd hiked on the previous two loops and soon found myself alone on the trails again. I kept the pace up for the next mile or two and just as I was about to slow it down and do some late stage ultra-shuffling I noticed a dude in a bright red shirt a few hundred yards ahead. With another runner in striking distance I amped it up again and soon found myself running alongside him and his friend. We ran together until we reached the final aid-station at which I gulped down some ginger-ale and tried to race back out onto the long stretch of road. One of the runners held back while me and the other started a ridiculously slow late stage ultra battle for the books. He was just beginning to pull away from me when the ginger ale settled in my stomach and I felt ready and able to run. I was able to pass him and as I rounded a bend in the road I saw a group of 5 or 6 runners just a few hundred feet away. I raced harder than I ever had at this stage of a long race and was fortunate enough to catch up to, and pass, one after another. Most were supportive and encouraging except for one guy who shot me a snarky ass "How'd you get here?" We'd seen each other many times over the course the day, each time with him in the lead and descending a trail that I was just beginning to climb. I explained to him that I had run there and passed him on the last stretch of road before heading back into the trails.
The last climb and subsequent descent to the finish found me alone and pushing as hard as I could to stay that way. I crossed the line totally wiped by this late stage ultra-duel and pretty close to puking. This was the perfect end to an excellent Wapack training run and to a race that was as memorable for its mellowness as it was for a sudden slugfest in the last few miles and a unique racing experience shared between friends. Jordan finished shortly after and we hung out with the rest of the team for a bit. The Trail Monster flag flew high in the post-ultra haze of burger smoke, sore muscles, and smiling faces and I'm looking forward to hanging it up again at the Wapack and Back 50 in less than two weeks.
|Ultra's make Nate happy|