Saw this sign on the way in at 4am. It definitely sounded intriguing, but I had more important things to do.
The sign at the entrance to the Wapack trail. I should mention that the trail has 14,000 feet of elevation gain as you run up and over 10 mountains. There are several hills as well, but after the mountains they are barely worth mentioning.
The early starters (4:30 am) line up to grab bibs and get ready for the race. At this point I began to think (not for the first time, or the last) that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Was I able to eat that massive bite? Follow along and I shall tell you the tale.
And we are off. We all started with a slow walk while Bogie shouted at us, "Hey! This is a race, people!" For me it was not so much a race as a slow and steady shuffle pace that I call "The mile killer".
Yellow triangles marked the way. When you are running 21 miles in one direction, and then reversing and running back, there are several chances for getting lost. These triangles become a constant friend you get to know very well, and perhaps even develop feelings for. I know I did.
We come to some delightful bridges at what I think is Binney Pond. We have already run up and over Mount Watatic, and are approaching Pratt Mountain. I was pacing with Tammy and Jeff Godin, without whom I would have been lost in the woods forever, becoming a feral mountain man. Thanks, guys.
The sun slowly rises, revealing an overcast day. No complaints, since at this point it was still nice and cool and bug free. We enjoyed it while it lasted. It was about here that Tammy suddenly turned and called, "Ca-Caw, Ca-Caw, Ca-Cawwww". She and Jeff have little calls they use to find each other in the woods. I only wish she would have warned me first. I thought we were being attacked by giants crows.
That might be Binney Pond. Then again, it might not. How the hell should I know?
We begin the grueling climb up Pratt Mountain. Well, it was grueling at the time. In hindsight, it was a nice little hill compared to what was to come.
The top of Pratt mountain, or New Ipswich mountain, or Barret mountain, but definitely not Kidder mountain. You can trust me on that, if nothing else.
The mist gives the illusion that the mountain in the distance is flying, much like the fortress in "Zardoz" (Some of Sean Connery's finest work. Go out and get a copy today!).
By this point, Tammy decided that we were not worthy of her company and she took off like a bat out of heck. I was mostly able to catch up with Jeff, depending on the severity of his GI troubles. Hell, the dude broke two ribs less that a month before and he was still out here. "Did you every know that you're my herooooooo!"
A fine view from the top of one of the ten, yes, ten mountains we ran. Did I mention there were ten? "Then, shalt thou count to ten, no more, no less. Ten shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be ten. Eleven shalt thou not count, nor either count thou nine, excepting that thou then proceed to ten. Twelve is right out." -Paraphrased Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Somehow, I caught up with Jeff and Tammy. I think they felt pity for me, and I was not too proud to accept it.
Another fine mountain top view. "I could not see the land,
The mist lay all too deep.
O, you who understand,
Child, do not weep. " -
The photo does not do justice to the mind-boggling trail that lay just ahead.
One of the rare flat parts. I felt like I was flying when we hit these spots, as opposed to plodding like an earth-bound mud man.
Since we have not reached the Windblown aid station, I feel very confident in saying that this might possibly be Barrett mountain (maybe).
Here we are at the Windblown aid station (mile 9). The time: 7am. Running time: 2.5 hours. The volunteers here were amazing. They actually took off my camelbak for me, filled it with water, and put it back on me. I felt like a celebrity. There was a ton of delicious treats, and I cannot thank the volunteers enough.
I think this is some kind of skiing poley thingy. Y'know, the one with chairs in the air and such. My wife says I am an idiot and they are power lines. This is a typical day for us.
Wildcat kids are a prime danger on this nice flat part. Since the road was flat, Mrs 3 hour marathon started zipping ahead at speeds I have never seen outside of a car.
Runners are hilariously off balance as we climb some large rocks near a stream. We tried to avoid the mud as much as possible, for all the good it did.
Another stream. It was here that I soaked my right shoe. Not wanting to deal with an imbalance, I immediately soaked the left. The cold stream water had a wholesome balming effect of my feet.
A mighty cairn in the wilderness. Tammy and Jeff told me that these were trail markers, whereas I had thought they were the projects of bored teenagers. No wonder I would have gotten lost without them!
A fine view from the top of Kidder mountain, Conant hill, or perhaps even Burton peak. Whenever I saw a mountain in the distance, I had a sinking feeling I would be running up it soon. That feeling was correct.
Another floating mountain, but this one is more reminiscent of the Beast's floating fortress on Krull. And what was the deal with the Glaive? It was supposed to be the ultimate weapon he spent the entire movie tracking down and then it proved useless in the final conflict. I felt cheated and used at the end of that movie.
"So I'm packing my bags for the Misty Mountains,
where the spirits go now,
over the hills where the spirits fly." -Led Zepplin
I love you, flat path.
Rocks and trees. My entire existence for 42 miles was rocks and trees.
There was an amazing stone wall in the mountains. It went on for at least a couple of miles. I cannot help but wonder why.
I think I found poopapalooza.
I came to look forward to flat rocks. Even on a incline, they beat jagged cliff-like rocks anyday, except when going down them when they were extremely slick and dangerous (always). That wasn't so cool.
Possibly Jeff in the distance. Another fine hill. Great. Thanks a lot. Needed another one. Couldn't have lived without it.
Oh, good! At what I thought was the top there is more to go! Fantastic! Oh, the joy!
Some of the coolest cairns it has ever been my priviledge to witness. It shows the respect the trail receives that no one knocked over a single one that I saw. Also, there was not a single piece of trash on the entire trail. One of the rare instances where my absolute hate of all humanity may be slightly unjustified.
Some snapdragons for my wife. She loves plants. And algae. And moss. And the slimy creatures that live in and on them. Ewww. Addendum: My wife says these are fiddleheads and that I cannot do anything right.
Almost at the top. This had better be the top. If this isn't the top, nations will crumble for this. This, I swear!
Flat path! Hoo-ray. Time to catch my breath before the next time to hit max heart rate. A cardiovascular stress test would be child's play.
It has not been a long time since I rock and rolled. Matter of fact, it has been no time at all.
I like these shelf rocks. The dictionary definition of a shelf rock is "Something, such as a projecting ledge of rock or a balcony, that resembles such a structure". Somehow, I don't feel at all enlightened by that dictionary. Notice if you take out the clause then the definition is "Something that resembles such a structure". That dictionary man probably makes 10 times my salary.
Oh, yeah. I love it! Thank you, sir, may I have another!
Where is the next aid station? Seems like I have been running for hours. Then again, I have been running for hours. Actually, my watch died about here so I had no clue for most of the race what time it was or how much farther I had to go. I don't recommend it.
Cool cairn and mountain view. The trees form a frame. My wife told me much about photography. I may have even listened a bit.
Caught up with Jeff around Pack Monadnock mountain. We are soon to be entering new world of hurt.
Those little tiny blips are 40 foot tall stations, by my best estimate, which is probably completely wrong.
Another awesome group of volunteers at Miller State Park aid station (mile 16). They took off my camelbak and filled it. They fed me. They supported me. Thank you. The time: 9am. Time Running: 4.5 hours. Up ahead: the toughest part of the coarse. Yippee.
They even took a photo of me! God, what a rugged, handsome man. And the guy in the orange ain't bad either (ba-dum dum).
The beginning of Pack Monadnock. The photo makes it look tame. It is not tame. It is a wild, ferocious beast that will eat you up and poop you out (similar to poopapalooza).
This tree fell across the path, but no tree can bar my way!
I tried so hard to leave no footprints, but ankle deep mud made it impossible. Now I hate myself. At least I did respect and refrain, though what I refrained from I do not know.
Hey, more hills! And rocks! This is a continuation of the previous hills. It never ends. The only advantage is that doing it all at once gets it over with, until you have to do it again and again.
If you loved Pack Monadnock, you're gonna really love North Pack Monadnock! All the fun of the Pack, but now with more North!
A photo of the way I just came up. And yes, the rocks are every bit as slick as they look.
I weep inside, but outside I am totally like tough and manly.
Well, at least it is a well marked trail. You have to look for the positive in every situation, especially in this particular situation.
A fine view, this time of a mountain resembling Kitiara's flying citadels in Dragonlance during the Blue Lady's war. Even I am impressed by the number of flying citadels in scifi/ fantasy.
This must be some of that 14,000 feet of elevation gain that Bogie mentioned.
Flat trail! A gift from the mountain Gods!
Flat enough! I can't complain!
I thought this tree in a rock to be pretty. It reminds me of the game rock-paper-scissors. I have proposed for years that the game should have 'tree' added, but the Games Council Board Organization has denied me thus far. Just wait until I file a motion. I would like to see them file an Opposition Affidavit & Memorandum Order. They don't have the guts.
Washed out trail means an extra helping of roots and rocks for everyone. No need to be shy, there's plenty for all.
Yeah. Great. Yeah.
Yeah. Even better. Yeah. Thanks a lot. Yeah.
There was some damage over the winter to many of the trees, but the volunteer crews cleared out all of the trees for the entire trail. A big shout out to the all the crews who did this. It must have been a ton of work. Thank you.
A stream flows under some roots. Or it could be a pitfall trap for mammoths. Really small mammoths. Actually, there were pygmy mammoths. They are a classic case of insular dwarfism.
Rock on. Heh.
I must be at the top by now, or at least close. Just over the next ridge I'll be done. Little lies like this kept me going the entire time.
If my feet weren't soaked before, they are now!
Almost at the top. I hope.
Yeah! Top of the North pack! I think that tower is the one in the previous picture. Forty feet high? Twenty? Thirty seven point five?
A view back to Pack Monadnock (the not so North one).
This shelter was more tempting that I can possible relate.
More mountains. Always more mountains. I don't think I have to run them, but I am not betting on that.
More rocks and scrub. Is anyone still reading these comments? Doesn't matter. They still need to be made.
You want my park admission? You've gotta catch me first, sucka!
A shout out to my brother's girlfriend Megan. She "works" at the Nature Conservancy.
After this trail, I will never think of Root Beer in the same way. Wow, that was bad even for me.
Umm. I though I was at the top of the mountain. Why is the trail still going up? Why? Why? Why?
Cairn at the top. Maybe at the top. I will not hold my breath (especially since I would pass out).
"I'm goin down, down, down, down.
I'm goin down, down, down, down.
I'm goin down, down, down, down.
I'm goin down, down, down, down" -Bruce Springsteen. He became a multi-millionare with such lyrics.
Good thing I didn't think it was the top.
"But it was only fantasy. The wall was too high, As you can see. No matter how he tried, He could not break free. And the worms ate into his brain." -Pink Floyd.
It was a real pity about the worms bit.
That better not be a mountain I see.
Alright. That's much better.
A neat bit of trail. The rock goes on for quite some time. All debris has been washed off the top by rain. But don't worry, it is still extremely slippery.
It was here that I saw the two floating aliens. They offered peace and joy for the human race, and then handed me a book titled "To Serve Man".
Another neat bit of trail, where a little stream bed was washed out by rain. Luckily, it was only very muddy as opposed to totally muddy.
I was the American who went up a hill but came down a mountain, courtesy of Colm Meany.
Looking good. Some nice downhill ahead.
Of course, downhills aren't as fun after 20 miles as you would think.
Trees and mist. My whole world is trees and mist. And rocks. And mud. And pain.
As I went down this, I played a merry tune in my head. It went a little like this "ow, ow, ow, ow...ow, ow, ow". Repeat.
Coming down this slick rock, I thought I was a goner. I started sliding and my shoes wouldn't catch. I managed to grab onto the sapling on the left just before I went over the edge. I hugged that tree. I made a vow there and than that if I ever saw anyone harming a tree, it would not go well for them. It will be like the march of the Ents on Isengard.
Another neat little bridge in the middle of the woods. I can also see someone up ahead. Perhaps Jeff?
Another fresh and cool mountain stream. I remember when I was young we used to drink out of such streams. Nowadays, not so much.
The great volunteers at the Mountain Road aid station (mile 21). The half-way point (good God.) They filled my camelbak and forced me to eat something. Thanks. Time: 11am. Time running: 6.5 hours. It took me two hours to run 5 miles. Normally, it would take me one hour.
Catching up to Jeff again. This hill looked a lot better when we were coming down it.
Back at the Miller state park aid station. I asked for a picture with Jeff. He had other priorities.
Ok. He is full now. Photo time. We are at mile 26 and still smiling. Time: 1pm. Time running: 8.5 hours. We made good time over the Monadnocks. I normally run a marathon in 5 hours, but I feel the extra 3.5 hours was justified.
I took fewer photos on the trip back. I was tired. Actually, I was weary to the bone. I was draggin'. I was bonked. I hit the wall. I decided to take a photo only if it really struck me as a beautiful scene, or if I really just wanted to stop and stand for a bit.
There is no use fooling myself. I will be climbing that mountain. It is unavoidable.
That mountain looks far away. Maybe I don't have to climb it.
I took more photos than I remembered. I guess I needed to stop and stand several times. Per mile.
I think that this is Binney Pond. There were very few bugs here, unlike the previous 15 miles, where I was eaten alive.
Bogie captures me at mile 41.99. Thanks for taking the photo!
I decide to run to the bitter end. Actually, I decided to hobble to the bitter end, but in this photo it actually looks like running.
I stop to play with a pooch. I guess I always have time for nature's creatures.
The Wapack aid station is staffed by great volunteers. "Would you care for some pizza?" Thank you sir, don't mind if I do! In the background, Bogie is packing up. Why is that? Because I finished under the cutoff time by six minutes.
Tammy decided to go for the full 50, and she was still running and smiling at the end. I brush away a tear at this show of running courage.
Well, I guess my new trail shoes have been broken in. As to my socks, my wife took one look at them and said "Throw them away." Might as well, since they were completely brown and had 4 or 5 holes in them.
A photo with Tammy and Jeff. Tammy was going to stand up, but 50 milers get the priviledge of the comfy seat. We 42 milers have to stand.
Of course, I could have said we were simply being gentlemen. Yeah, let's go with that explanation.
Forgive me if I put a third photo here, but c'mon! We have bonded through blood, sweat, and tears. And pizza.
My beautiful little car leaving the parking lot. As the free cd I got with my car raps, "I want a new car, want to get my ride on, huh! In a Scion!"
I decided I needed a photo of how nasty I looked. Heh, I earned those mud stains that took steel wool to clean off.
My flashlight. I bought it because it looks like a phaser from Star Trek. That it has a hand crank and doesn't use batteries was just icing on the cake.
The race medal is awesome! A cool logo on one side, and...
A personalised plaque on the other! It even has the distance done on it! Very cool.
My official race bib. After carrying something for 42 miles, there is no way I am getting rid of it. 42 miles. 14 hours, 24 minutes. I came in dead last, but I am proud to be dead last in such illustrious company.