A Tale of Two Races
Written by Alex Jospe
Since the trail running thing has been keeping me occupied in between the spring and fall orienteering seasons, I figured I would try to sneak in one more race this summer, and darted over to New Ipswich for the Wapack Trail Race, 18 miles over a couple mountains. Sounded like just my thing, but unfortunately the weather decided to dump the humidity of death over all of New England just then, and I suffered mightily.
I wore my trusty X-Talon 212s, but even they weren’t enough to battle the rocks that were slimy with humidity, creating a treacherous footing that necessitated far more caution on the downhills than is my usual M.O. I never fell, unlike some competitors, but you had to be cautious.
The humidity drained my oomph, and although I tried to remember that I love running over mountains, it was tough to keep a good attitude. I dragged my soaked carcass across the finish line about 15 minutes slower than I’d hoped for, and 11 minutes behind the first woman, though 16min clear of third. So, that wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for.
I do trail races because I love them, and it seemed wrong to end the season on such a miserable day. Looking ahead, the next race that didn’t conflict with any orienteering races was the Pisgah 50k. The only problem here is that it was 50km of running, and I think to date my longest run was the 18mi at Wapack. I hear that you’re supposed to train for these things?
Going with the tried and true “how bad can it be?” approach, I figured I’d sign up on the day of the race, so that if the weather looked to be humid I could back out with minimal loss to my pride and my wallet. Thankfully, autumn came knocking, and the weekend looked to be absolutely stunningly beautiful weather for running.
After spending most of Saturday setting up, running, and taking down an orienteering meet in eastern MA, I got up at stupid-o-clock on Sunday and headed out to Chesterfield to run a 50k. Yay for running! Because I had absolutely no idea of what to expect, I figured I’d go with the approach where you control the parts you can, and roll with the punches everywhere else.
I had a solid, flexible, fueling schedule, and I wrote it out on the back of a trail map of the course. Being an orienteer, I am considerably more comfortable if I have a map of where I’m going! I also wore a heart rate monitor, to make sure that I kept things controlled and easy in the first stages of the race. And I picked the TrailRoc236 shoes to keep my feet happy, expecting a bit of foot swelling over 50k, the anatomic fit would probably be more comfortable than the performance fit that I love so much about my X-Talons.
I spent the first 20 miles or so running with Kelsey Allen, and I swear we just chatted about how much we loved to run for all that time. I maybe have her convinced to try an orienteering meet one of these days =). One woman had started a bit faster, but we reeled her in with our superior downhill skills by 15 miles, and even as the pace started to feel hard to me, I was having a good time out there on a fantastic trail, so life was good.
We got some fantastic views of Mt. Monadnock from the top of Mt. Pisgah, and the ripping descent from there was one of the highlights of my day. I did not enjoy the bee stings before that, but thankfully I’m not highly allergic to bees. Around 25-26mi, Kelsey started to bonk, so I was on my own the last 10k, and that felt like a looooong way. Amazing what company can do in these races! But my energy levels were still good, my feet felt good, and I knew I was right on the line for finishing in under 5 hours, so I pushed to the end, finishing in 4:59:38. That was close!
It was fun to run with someone else who dances on the downhills and holds a love of running in their heart, and the race was an extremely well-run event. I am much happier ending this summer’s trail running season with that race than with the humidity slog, and hopefully the fitness will carry into my fall season of orienteering!
Next up is the prestigious Hudson Highlander, a metric marathon in the woods of Harriman State Park, and then the Canadian Orienteering Champs – I’ll keep y’all posted how that goes!
For more gory details, here are some full race reports: