JFK 50 Miler

Sept 5th, 2010 - Tracing - New Ipswich, NH - 18

Day 247 - The pain still lingers, and even though a year has passed, it still feels like it happened 364 days ago...

Sept 6th, 2009 - Wapack Trail Race - Mile 4

I knew right away it wasn't good the moment I heard the dull pop and felt the pain shoot up my right leg.

I came off of the 3 ft rocky ledge fast, off-balance, and out of control. I paid the price for being careless.

Tears began welling up in my eyes, and a full fall season of running flashed in front of me: RTB Ultra, Applefest Half, Portland Marathon, Hartford Marathon, and NYC Marathon. All within the next month. All pretty much gone the moment I decided to go for it all at Wapack.

After sitting there for a few minutes and bracing for the worse, I got myself up and tried to walk on the already swollen ankle. There was a sharp pain. Not good.

I was a mile from the first water stop at mile 5, and four miles from the start. I decided to hobble to the aid station to see if I could get a lift back to the start.

Runners began passing me. It was painful to be passed even though I knew that my race was over. My first ever DNF. FUCK!

I got to the aid station, and the fine folks there said that there was nothing they could do for me at the moment. They would need to stay here for the entirety of the race to support the other runners, which was going to be at least another three hours. I just wanted to get out of there and start the healing process.

I turned back and began my long and grueling two plus hour trudge back to the start, up over a few mountains.

I vowed that I would come back next year to finish what I had started.

Sept 5th, 2010 - Wapack Trail Race

Dane and I got up to New Ipswich, NH for this year's Wapack Trail Race by 8AM for the low-key 9AM start. I was going to attempt to race it, but would turn it into a training run if the course got as hairy as I remember from the four miles that I managed last year. I rarely ever use a race as a training run, but today was going to be an exception.

Double J was here, along with Jimmie C. and Mike S. Mike was getting ready for his own ultra, his first 50k, in a couple of weeks. About 70 others runners also made the trek to the hills of Wapack on this cool Sunday morning.

(Before we realized what we were getting ourselves into)

The course itself is 9 miles out and 9 miles back, over Barrett Mtn, New Ipswich Mtn, Pratt Mtn, the NH/MA border, then the biggest beast of them all, Mount Watatic (short for "wicked retarded"). We cross over these mountains twice on this course.

For gear, I just brought along my Camelbak with the water/Gatorade mix and one GU. That's all I figured I would need on this course that's supposed to be the equivalent to running a marathon.

On a side note, I never do well on courses that are supposed to be the equivalent of some other course/distance. Case in point, Mt. Washington. Your time on that course is supposed to be equivalent to your half-marathon time. I finished it in 1:34. My half-marathon PR is 1:23.

Wapack is supposed to be close to your marathon time. My marathon PR is currently 2:58.

I think part of the problem for me is pacing myself at any other distance other than a distance that I am familiar with. I suck at doing math in my head during a race, so I can never figure out my proper pace at a new distance, and of course, I never plan that stuff out ahead of time. I tend to just go out and run based on how I feel, and most of the time, I definitely don't give it my all or sabotage myself early on.

The other issue is pre-race prep. If this was a normal marathon, then I would have carbo loaded the days leading into the race. I just looked at this race as just an 18 miler, and didn't eat properly the days before.

This year however, I did take the the advice of DQ and taped my ankles. I also decided to wear my Nike Frees. I wore trail running sneakers last year and that didn't work out too well.

Everybody was ready to go by 9AM and the RD let everybody loose on the mountains with an interesting start. He just gave instructions and then told everybody to go.

I went out on the new part of the course at about 7:30's and felt pretty good. The footing was tough over the grassy trail, but I managed. I realized that I might have taped my ankles a little too tight and stiff, but I would rather suffer a little over the course of the race than suffer a lot with a badly twisted ankle.

We came upon the first climb on the course at 1.5 and that's when Jimmie passed me. He asked me how I was feeling, and I told him that I was already tired! I seriously was though. I couldn't believe how dead my legs felt, and I was basically walking up the first hill. It wasn't even that steep! The 70+ miles so far this week was catching up to me. It was going to be a long day.

It was on the downside of this first hill that I realized that it was time to call this one a training run. I started to let other runners go by me on the single track trail as I hate being chased on single track, especially on trails this technical. It was demoralizing and very unlike me to just let others pass, but memories of last year were still fresh on my mind.

At mile 4 I noted the spot that ate my ankle last year. I took my time navigating this section this time around. As a matter of fact, I really took my time throughout today's race, especially on the technical downhills, while others were just flying past me. I was uncharacteristically running with a lot of fear and that's never a fun thing to do, and I was less than half-way through with the race! It was going to be a really, really long day.

I suffered my first bad ankle breaker before the first water stop at mile 5, but the ankle tape did its job. I still felt a twinge of lingering pain, so I shudder to think how bad it might have been if I didn't do the tape job. I suffered a few more close calls throughout the day, and after about the 10th one, I got really frustrated at myself. I started to walk the technical and uphill portions of the course. What was I doing here?! I should have just ran the 30 miles with Reno today!

I got to the turn around point at mile 9 in 1 hr 39 mins. I was way behind any logical and reasonable pace, and just had to swallow my pride and finish this unforgiving race in one piece. Call it a learning experience.

The first mountain to greet you on the return trip is Watatic. This thing was a pain to run down. Trust me, it was a million times worse crawling back up. This part of the course helped me reach a PR of a 17 minute mile! I managed to set another mile PR later in the course. See splits below.

The rocky terrain was starting to really wear on me physically and mentally. My Frees weren't the best choice for this terrain as my feet were sliding all over the place with each step. Even with my Injinji tetra socks, I was starting to feel hot spots on my feet due to the constant uneven footing.

There's roughly a total of maybe two miles of flat, even trail throughout this race, and it was such a relief to be able to run on this surface, but it was rare. There was hardly any rest from the technical stuff that got old real quick.

I eventually got passed by two other runners between mile 9 and the finish, when I took a wrong split in the trail at about 12.5 (apparently, a lot of others did the same), to put me in my final finishing position of 26th place overall.

This was one of the few (probably only race) that I didn't pass one single runner on the course.

By mile 15, I just wanted to get the race over with and move on with the rest of the fall running season.

I took a GU before one of the final climbs that probably saved me from completely bonking. I was now having a hard time standing straight, and was forced to stop a few times, dead in my tracks, to catch my breath.

I eventually crossed the finish line in an unglamorous 3 hrs and 38 minutes. Remember, this course is supposed to be the equivalent of a marathon, and my best marathon to date was 2:58!

(At least it didn't kill me)

This race was probably the most grueling race I've ever done, including my first marathon when I couldn't walk for nearly a week afterwards.

I was just glad it was over and that I was able to go home injury free, but I don't think I'll ever have the courage to ever race this race again. The risk of injury is just too high. Don't get me wrong. I love challenges and challenging race/adventure courses, but I too have my limits and for this type of race, Wapack is my upper limit.

It was physically draining, but the part that still lingered with me as I got home and tried to enjoy the rest of the long weekend, was the mental toll that it took on me. I wasn't happy with my performance and I actually, for the first time all year, didn't feel like running anymore.

Hopefully, this is just the kick in the ass that I needed before I head into the RTB Ultra and the JFK 50.

I'll see how I feel in the morning....


(Don't let the negative splits fool you)


  1. You finished, and you didn't make your injury worse. Good job! and you've got your goal races coming up--which you can take on because YOU ARE NOT INJURED!!! Good job! Wisdom doesn't come easy. Sometimes I think it comes only through pain. You are now a wiser runner.

  2. P.S. GREAT post! You really brought me along, every step of the way. Thanks!

  3. Nice write up Jason! Too bad you didn't enjoy the race more. I ran this one last year and went into it with a bruised knee. As a result, I ran all the downs very, very carefully. Unfortunately, scared is no way to run a trail race. Good Luck at your 50m!

  4. If nothing else, you at least got some really nice pics for your trouble.

    Checked online, Vegas says you're taping your ankles again a year from now...

  5. Tape - good; N Frees - bad. You've got to write it off.... and get back to the aggressive style that suits you.