The Wapack & Back 21.5 Mile Endurance Run “Where it all began” by Ryan Welts
I was finally able to return and run the race where all my running started. A race that I have a lot of history with and I first ran back in 2008, my first ever footrace. I ran well that day and finished in 4:05 on a course a .5 mile shorter than the current route. I’ve started the Wapack 50 miler twice, finished once and proposed to my wife Kristina at the finish line after she won the 50 in 2012.
I’d like to think I’ve made some improvements in my running the past few years so I was excited to get back on the course and shred the gnarr. I knew coming into the race my main competition would be Johnathan Hammett, a strong runner from Rhode Island. I knew he would outpace me on the more runnable sections for sure. Turns out he can climb pretty darn good too! Since this was to be a training race for the upcoming Cayuga USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships, I led into it with a solid week and the Big A 50k the weekend before.
My pre-race strategy was to run conservatively and stay well hydrated to the top of Windblown at mile 13 or so, then try to pick it up on the downs and flats the last 8. Ol’ Johny Hammett had other plans and we shot off the road and into the woods like the race was over at the top of the first climb! Once we reached the first steep section and he kept running I had to make the mental shift to run my own race.
For the next 16 miles I hung about 50 seconds back from Hammett and would catch glimpses of him periodically. As we rolled through mile 12 (windblown) at 2 hours I realized I was on 3.5 hour pace. I’d remembered, Jesse, the RD telling me that 3:22 was the time to shoot for. I figured that was out of reach so I kept with my plan.
As I made my way over Barrett Mountain and onto Pratt I noticed I was closing and decided the descent down to Pratt pond would be the best place to close the gap and see “what’s doing”. After running at Hammetts heels for a tenth he stepped aside and let me by. A quarter mile later I glanced back and didn’t see him so I lit it up a bit to get out of sight.
I grabbed some coke at Binney hill aid and Johnny never showed so I took off running! After looking at my watch I thought maybe the CR was within reach, but I’m no stranger to that final grind up and over Watatic! I ran hard all the way in, even with a tumble on the tricky descent, crossed the line in 3:24. A mere two minutes off Dave Herrs course record!! Couldn’t be happier with this result.