~~~~~~Flashback~~~July 23, 2005~~~~~~~
Of 45 competitors.. I finished 26th. The winner finished in 5:15:?? I finished in 7:57:48. It was an hour slower than my predicted finish time and goal I had set for myself.. but I didn't care. Because in the end I overcame my fears, I overcame myself, my mind, my body and my soul. I was beat up, battered bruised.. and a defeated man.. who was able to resurrect myself to carry on. This is something I'll do time and time again in the future..
Specs: 32.6 MILES 3,903' Elevation Gain 3,478' Elevation Descent
26 of 45 in 7 Hours 57 Minutes and 48 Seconds
~~~~~~Return to Present~~~July 22, 2006~~~~~
The alarm went off at 4:30 AM. Pretty darn early as it ALWAYS does on race morning. I got an "ok" nights sleep after finally putting earplugs in to drown out the noise from a loaded Little Sand Point campground on the shores of Piseco Lake, NY. The only other thing that woke me all night was the Racoon on our picnic table that was going after my Diet Mug RootBeer. I rolled out of bed and made breakfast for Sarah and I, and began my pre-race preparations. These mostly consist of getting dressed, filling my bottles with water and Gatorade Endurance Formula and "lubing" any spots vulnerable to chaffing.
After we ate breakfast, we got in the car and headed for the starting line just past the small airport. The Wakely Dam Ultra is a 32.6 Mile race that runs point to point along the Northville Placid Trail from Piseco to Wakely Dam. Tim Seaver is the current course record holder with a time of 5:05:50. Tim also holds the record for running the entire 133 Mile NPT in 37 Hours (A trail that requires an average of 19 Days to Hike). The race website states: "The Damn Wakely Dam Ultra is an extreme trail run through the vast Adirondack Park Wilderness of New York along an uninterrupted section of the Northville Placid Trial between Piseco Lake and Wakely Dam. There are no cross roads. There are no aid stations. Runners must be prepared to complete the entire 32.6 miles (52.5K) of rugged technical trail unassisted. It's just you, the trail and the company of like-minded runners."
So here I was for the second year in a row. The determining factor that got me to the starting line this year is that this race last year, was my first official Ultra EVER. It's been a VERY long year since then and its time like these that you get to weigh yourself against your own progression. I set 3 goals for the day. 1.) Try and Finish in the top 10 (Be happy with 16th or less). 2.) Finish in under 7 Hours (this would take an astronomical 1 hour off of my time from last year) 3.) If all else fails JUST FINISH and HAVE FUN. As I stood in the parking lot and drank the last of a gatorade to complete my carbo load and hyper-hydration... I took to stretching and mingling with the other runners present.
Pat Hamel, the 2003 winner and runner up in 2005 had arrived and we began talking about some folks we knew, Tim Seaver and Bird and Head. As we were talking Pat said he'd like to break Tim's record if it was at all possible. Sounded like a daunting task but knew Pat had a GREAT chance to accomplish this. I told him I wanted to knock an hour off my time from last year and with a chuckle he said "An hour?? Is THAT all?? Thats quite a chunk of time." As Sarah laughed with him I told him how last year I crashed hard and sat on the trail for about a half hour. He responded with "well at least we know you've got a half hour right there if you don't crash again." ~~~Flashback-2005~~~ "I gathered my belongings put them on my back.. and after wasting a half hour in the wilderness of an area I knew nothing of.. I had gathered every ounce of courage in my body. Its true that this type of sport drains every bit of everything in your mind body and soul. All of your pains sink to your lower back, your equilibrium is thrown off and your emotions take control over your every move.." ~~~~~Present-2006~~~ Hmmm... it does sound like a daunting task... an HOUR off of my time from last year??
I mingled some more and ended up talking to Katie Lotterhos. She had run the race in either 2002 or 2003. She had returned for more punishment. As we were talking I told her how I had just paced a runner in the Vermont 100 last Sunday and that I had run the last 32 Miles with her. Then this girls mom starts laughing, "And you think you're going to finish here today?! How often do you run these things?!" Well... I guess it takes all kinds, including crazy ole' me. I had my goals and pre-race laughter or not, I was going to get out there and see what I was made of. (Note: I later found out that one runner had actually RUN the entire VT 100 last weekend! Now THAT is amazing!!)
Per the norm at Wakely, the race begins with a litanny of picture taking. The 49 of us who were running, huddled together for a big group picture and flashbulbs went off like something you'd see at a Patriots Game. Its a GREAT way to enjoy pre-race because we all knew what lay before us. We made our way to the trailhead where RD Jim humored us with his infinite wisdom and enjoyable sense of humor, "Now the Forest Service wants me to tell everyone that we are to have no more than 15 runners together at any given time. So... if you find your running with 15 other runners at once... spread out." However, we were all getting ansy and wanted to start. And just as it had in the past... get your fingers on the button on your watches an "GO!"
Greg Stone, a man whom I had met various times while training on the Pemi-Loop managed to squeak into the race. He had ran the 31 Mile Pemi Loop just this past Wednesday... I was amazed he was out here and ready to go. We both watched in astonishment as Pat Hamel took off "like he was in a local 10K!" For the first 3 miles I felt tired and was finding it hard to find my pace. My legs felt like rubber and I was all ready wondering how the REST of this day would turn out. It was VERY humid out here, the mosquitos were blood thirsty and the horseflies were ready for the kill. As I carried on I thought of the days forecast.. Mostly cloudy and cool with highs in the mid 70's... but I thought, "Man I could use a little rain to get rid of these bugs and cool the muggy's." I would Pay for this shortly.
I soon found myself hunkered down behind a young man named Jim Lampman. Jim was tall and tone with curly blond hair up in a pony-tail. He had a relaxing pace and I was comfy behind him. So I settled in and decided to enjoy the race for awhile behind him. I had my iPod shuffle going and put my head down to trudge on. We were soon enough flying down the trail at a great cruising pace and then we came to a gate where 2 trucks were parked and then we ran along a dirt road.... "wait a minute... I don't remember a dirt road from last year. Oh well... this kid seems to know where he is going. Hmm... no blue circles on the trees anymore either.. well there WAS 2 runners behind us.. maybe I'll walk slowly and hope they catch up." Well.. NO LUCK and soon Jim, whom I had been following, made his way back up hill towards me. He asked, "Hey.. it says after Jessup river there's a sharp left we need to be careful of... is that it over there (as he pointed at a fork in the dirt road)" "Jim... I think we are WAY off course. I don't remember ANY of this from last year and there are no more trail markers." So.. we turned around and went back up this daunting hill of a dirt road until we found another blue circle. Yup... Missed the sharp left. Jim then got behind me and followed me to Spruce Lake (mile 7.6). I gave the nickname of Jim "GD Rookie" Lampman, he seemed to like it.
Along the way to the Lake I asked Jim if he had ever done any tracking. "Whats that?" I then showed him how to identify foot prints in the mud, sand or wet marks on rocks, then how to see which way the person was going. I figured at least he'll have the knowledge for future reference. At Spruce lake, Jim headed out in front of me again. Soon he came to a junction, our blue blazed trail went right and an arrow pointed left with a sign that said "Lean-To." Jim began to head Left towards the lean-to, then he stopped in his tracks and looked at me. I went right and said, "This Way, Jim." We had taken a 1.5 Mile detour all ready.. I wasn't about to make this race ANY longer. I was getting discouraged.. So much for Goal #1.. and Who Knows about Goal #2... lets just get Goal #3.
I put my headphones back on and prayed for good tunes and thankfully... good tunes played in my ears as I took off down the trail. I was feeling great, found my stride and just ran as hard as I could... until I heard a sound... I put the iPod on pause and listenned... "hmmm... sounds like rain. That wasn't in the forecast." Well... I asked for it... and it came... it started to pour and it would do so for the next 25 Miles of my day... RAIN BUCKETS... HUGE BUCKETS and all I had was the clothes on my back. UGH! Surprisingly.. it felt good. The bugs went away and so did the muggy air.
I continued on down the trail, soon coming to a river crossing that I remembered from last year. Except this year the bridge was out and runners had to rock hop across the stream. Many runners had stopped to fill water bottles but HEY!.. THIS IS A RACE! I took the chance to try and sneak by them.. only to fall into the river while trying to cross... now I'm drenched from head to toe, covered in mud... I'm a mess. I always wondered if I could finish an ultra in the rain... I guess today I'd find out.. because at Wakely.. YOU HAVE TO FINISH!
From here on the miles seemed to whiz on by, so much so that the race is now merely a blur. I remember feeling great. I was well hydrated with my bottles and had no unexplainable pains. But then again..it IS a LONG race... and chances are if you feel good... that'll change. I ran past where I had crashed last year and it felt like true redemption knowing I was running great at this point this year. In fact, I had caught another runner and he told me I looked strong. My confidence was boosted and I was chomping at the bit. But then.. I got hungry. My banana had smooshed in my waist pack and I sucked it out of the peel some 72 minutes ago. I didn't want to hastle with the PB+J in my pack... I'll just keep running.. because I had a plan.
My calves began to cramp, my right quad cramped, my hamstrings were tender and I felt some pain circulating in my hips. If I only had some salt! The one thing I forgot! Then I ran into Gary. A runner from Pennsylvania. He ran in the Massanutten 100 this past year and was looking great! He had a great pace as well and we actually fed off each other for the next 8 Miles until we came to the sign which read "Cedar River Hdqts - 9 Miles" ONLY 9 MILES TO GO! We stopped to look at each other and fired off sinister grins. It was go time. Much of the trail was an overgrown mess. Many times we could not even push the growth aside to see the trail below. We ran blindly hoping to not slip on anything. I had all ready scraped my knee open on a rock.
We continued to feed off each other until I noticed Gary had much more gas in his tank than I. So I slowed off a bit and tried to find my own pace to get myself to the aid drop. I ran past a forest ranger. He is out there every year making sure the race has the maximum of 49 runners and NO MORE and that the runners are all following the forest code. Now.. here in NH we have some pretty strict forest/wilderness regulations... but sending a ranger out to count! COME ON!
I carried on down the trail. I was, however, soaking wet and cramping badly. As a light wind picked up through the valley, I felt myself shiver and knew I was fading into a low fast. I smiled though... instead of being worried of how I would climb over the wall... I smiled because it came MUCH later than it ever had and I was ready to rock and roll with my soul. Lets do it demons! I ran when I could and walked otherwise. I NEVER stopped moving. A group of 3 runners passed me trying to cheer me on, "Reel it in buddy, lets go!" I shuffled my feet. I was on the dirt road... a LONG dirt road that led 3 miles to the finish. A HELL of a time to crash... but I was insanely loving it. Soon.. I started thinking of my grandfather, who some of you know passed away this past April to Cancer. He was my best friend.. and I miss him dearly. As I thought of him and welled up inside... I saw a huge chunk of white fungi from a decaying tree sitting on the trail. Mt. Drew is known for fungi writing... and on it said "GO John GO! ANDY AND SARAH 1:00pm" I looked at my watch.. it was 1:21.. I could catch them!
I found myself smiling and feeling great again. I was overcoming the low.. climbing the wall and ready to go. Drew and Sarah had once again lifted my spirits and raised me from the dead. The trail was now a raging river, mud was knee deep in MANY spots, raspberry bush thorns had cut me legs to smitherines and I looked like Passion of the Christ out here. And soon.. up ahead.. there they were. "Come on kid! GET THE LEAD OUT!" It was Sarah and Drew. As I reached them Drew asked... "you gonna make 7 hours or what?!" I looked down at my watch.. "Holy Crap! I've got 9 Minutes!" I ran as hard as I ever have at such distance towards the finish line. As I entered the camping area on the near side of the damn, I looked back and saw a runner behind me. No way was someone else going to pass me. I headed for the dam and ran hard across.
As I crossed the dam I was overjoyed. I had done it again, defeated Wakely. I did the sign of the cross and prayed to my grandfather and god for the strength. I pumped my fist in the air.. I was pyshed.. and as I made it to the other side, I spotted a deep puddle... and reared back, jumped up and dove in.. SPLASH!
Goal #1: Finish top 10 be happy with 16th (this would be 10 less than last year).. I finished in 18th, I LOVE IT!
Goal #2: Finish in Sub 7 Hours. I finished in 7:02:48. Exactly 56 Minutes faster than last year AFTER the extra 1.5 Miles Detour. I'll take it! (Actual Distance with detour 34.1 Miles.. DOH!)
Goal #3: I finished and I had a BLAST! The rain felt great, the people were awesome and I was all smiles.
Pat Hamel ended up winning the race for his second time. And despite the rain and mud... unimpressive conditions.. he beat out Tim Seavers Course record by 50 Seconds with a time of 5:05:00. Great Job Pat!
I hung around the finish line to chat with some other runners and watch some others cross before taking off. Special thanks to RD Jim for another great year at Wakely.. he and his run staff do an amazing job! And thanks also to Mt. Drew and Sarah, for lifting me up and shaping new goals for me. Now lets see if we can knock another hour off next year!
The site is updated constantly until complete post race.