Last Saturday completed my first race of the season and boy was it a little ridiculous. The 13th Annual PHUNT 25k/50k took place on January 16th at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area. I heard such great things about PHUNT over the past few years and after a few nudges from friends, I decided to sign up. While it was sold out by the time I decided to move forward with it, I didn’t have to stay on the wait list long. PHUNT is one of the few races that I’ve come across where transferring registration is easy and they make every effort to try and have those on the wait list fill in the spots for runners who just can’t make it. I was very grateful for this.
First person I saw when I got there…Mo from Not Your Average Mo! I knew he was going to be there, but I couldn’t remember if he was running or volunteering. Turns out he was volunteering and drove 2.5 hours just to help out. Now that’s commitment for you! It’s always great to be greeted with a friendly face.
PHUNT consists of two 15.6 mile loops and you could chose to run one or two loops. I, of course, I chose the 50k option over the 25k option. Mistake #1. PHUNT has a reputation of being a challenging run, not because of the difficulty of the course, but because weather conditions that make the course a little dangerous. It has rolling hills a a couple of steep climbs (just over 2200 ft of elevation per loop) and is mostly single track with a few miles out in the pasture (course profile). This year, the weather was perfect, but the rains from the night before make the course a muddy mess. I had flashbacks of the HAT 50k run of 2015. Remember that? Shit mud.
With only 6 weeks or so of training into this season and only two training runs that maxed out at 10 miles, I knew that I was coming into this race under-trained. I had a plan to run this course at a slow comfortable pace and eat up all 8 hours that they gave you to finish. I expected to hover around a 14:30 – 14:45 minute pace and thought nothing of it. Then, we started running….and I was feeling good…too good. By mile four, I looked at my Garmin and saw I was hovering around a 12:00 minute pace…and I FELT GREAT! So, I decided, well hell…I might as well try and PR this thing. I had passed a few folks on the trail and in the beginning had no issues with maneuvering in the mud. I just assumed that I was a natural mudder. If I could PR at HAT50K, I can certainly PR PHUNT50k too. After all, the course wasn’t as technical as HAT and apparently, I do well in the mud. Mistake #2.
By mile 10 I knew I was in for it. All of the sudden I was gassed. I should have known. Before I headed out to the race, I decided to pull an Angel Card. And I pulled “Patience.” Hmph. Now, if you’ve been following me for awhile, ya’ll now I have no patience. I should’ve paid attention and listen to the message that it was sending me. But I didn’t. Mistake #3.
My legs were tired and reality hit me…by no means am I a mudder. I suck running in the mud. I hate mud. Mud sucks. Okay, okay…back to Plan A…slow and steady and we’ll finish with an incredible time. As each mile passed, I was more and more exhausted. Mile 14.36, I bit it. I fell hands and knees in the shit mud and both of my calves cramped up. As I sat there on all four paws, I started to justify quitting. I didn’t NEED to do a 50k for my training, 25k was perfectly acceptable. Most of the folks were doing 25k anyway. I’m missing out on all the beer and food and I do have a lot of laundry to tend to when I get home. It’s okay to quit, right?
Now I’ve had bad runs before where I thought I’d quit, like the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler last year, but really the only other time I wanted to quit THIS BAD was when I did the On the Rocks 30K Trail Run back in August of 2014, and that time I had a real good excuse…I didn’t realize that I was deathly ill and the doctor that released me was desperately trying to contact me and get me back in for hospitalization. They didn’t have my updated phone number and I didn’t know until I received a letter after the race. Anyway, I digress.
When I got to Activity Hall, my friend Alex greeted me there. I told him I wasn’t feeling it and let him know I was over-dressed. Because we were asked to take our shoes off if we entered the hall to get to our drop bags, Alex was kind enough to take my vest to my drop bag and bring a bowl of the traditional PHUNT soup so that I could leave my shoes on.
During what seemed like a life time, I fought an internal battle of whether or not I was going to quit. I came in at 3:26:38 at 25k and did some calculations and figured I could walk a lot of the second loop if I needed to. After I scarfed down the soup and received a lot of encouragement from my running friends, I went back out. I admit – within the first two miles of heading back out, I was wondering if I made the right decision. I was just too tired and as I replayed the muddy course over in my head again, I sank a little low.
I hunkered down and slowly watched my pace get slower and slower. Sometimes I got down to 22:00 minute miles on the hills. I felt defeated. If I only had stuck to my plan. I would be exactly where I was at that moment, but I would be feeling on top the world…I think. I stayed at the second aid station a little longer than I usually do. The campfire they had looked so cozy and I wanted to pull up a seat, grab a beer, and munch on S’mores. After some chit chat and encouraging words from the amazing volunteers, I was sent on my way. (Shout out to Katrina!)
As the sun started to set on me, I pushed as hard as my body would allow to finish before the cut off. By this time, the math I was doing in my head was all wrong. I even asked someone at the aid station if I was the last runner out there. For most of the second loop, I was completely alone. It wasn’t until about mile 28 that I caught up with another runner that was in front of me. He was shuffling along and I felt his pain. When I saw him, I focused on trying to catch up with him. I eventually passed him and made it to the finish.
I was so glad it was over. I was tired, hungry, and thirsty. I was surprised that my friend Dana stuck around to see me finish. She was doing the 25k and didn’t need to be there, but she was. I was also happy to see Emir and Amy. It’s always good to see them and I look forward to running with them later in the year. I finished with a time of 7:31:18 and of the 108 participants that went on to do the 50k, I was the 98th to finish. Not one of my better moments.
Once again, I proved to myself that I’m not a quitter. I don’t know how I would take quitting. People DNF all the time and it’s just a matter of time that it’ll happen to me. Saturday was not that day and I don’t ever plan on going into the race prepared to DNF. I will deal with a DNF after the fact.
- This is a very well organized race. The aid stations were one of the best I have ever seen and included beer, s’mores, and jello shots! I did not partake in those glories, but I will next year.
- The race director, Carl Perkins, and the entire crew and volunteers were phenomenal. ‘Nuff said.
- The course is beautiful and I enjoyed the scenery.
- The medal was SWEET and doubled as a bottle opener with magnets, and so were the long sleeved t-shirt and glass. For $35, you get way more than your monies worth.
- Most people are running the 25k. It’s easy to get caught up in the crowd and if you are doing the 50k, this can get dangerous if you’re not careful with your pace. I know it was for me.
- PHUNT 25k is a great training run for the HAT 50K. The timing is perfect and the course, while not as aggressive as HAT, is aggressive enough to use as a training run.
- This really is a fun race and I would highly recommend it to anyone!