Back in January, I attempted my first ultramarathon at the PHUNT 50k in Elkton, Maryland. You may remember that I ran the 25k version of this race (one loop) last year and even though it was Really. Freaking. Hard., I almost immediately decided I wanted to attempt the 50k (two loop version) in 2017.
The lead-up to this year’s race was much different than last year. I started a brand new job in November (call me if you’re buying a house in Northern VA or D.C.!) and my training took a backseat to trying to establish myself in my new position. I also ran 3 marathons in 2016 – actually, 4 if you count the Ironman – so I was definitely going into PHUNT more tired than last year. But, the flip side is that I was running better than I ever had leading into this race. I also felt like I had no pressure at all to perform coming off of my other fall races and it was more about finishing than anything else. So those were all positives heading into the day. My only real fear was not making the eight-hour cut off. I had visions of being at mile 29 and not being allowed to finish. Actually, strike that. I had the time limit fear and a very real fear of getting lost in the woods, since I can’t find my way out of a paper bag.
In any case, I drove up to the race on Friday after work and traffic sucked. It took me something like three hours and I was pooped by the time I got to my hotel, which was in Newark, DE. I’m going to be honest that it was probably the worst hotel I have ever stayed in (and I’m not afraid of cheap hotels), but I was really trying to stay within a budget. Next year, I’m upgrading.
The race starts late, so I got to sleep in, which was awesome. This race is fantastic for a lot of reasons, but one is that you get to hang out in an activity hall before and after the race. Shelter and real bathrooms – score!
Since I’m writing this post almost a full month after the race, my race report is not going to be the most detailed of my life, but here’s the abbreviated version.
For the first half of the race (one 25k loop), my main goals were running where I could run (in a trail race you inevitably end up walking some sections because of footing issues) and eating as many calories as I could. I got through the first loop at around 12 minute mile pace, which was awesome for me on that terrain.
I had left a duffle bag waiting at the start/finish line with my nutrition for the second loop. I tried to move as quickly as possible to re-fill my Camelbak and stuff my pockets with food before starting out on the second loop. Almost immediately, it started sleeting and I regretted my decision to leave my gloves in “transition.” Luckily, the weather wasn’t awful. I would much rather run in sleet than rain and only a few portions of the course were muddy for the second lap, since it was relatively cold.
I definitely hit some low points during the second loop. For the first 6-ish miles I ran completely alone and didn’t even see another runner, since the majority of the racers only ran one loop and those of us doing two were so spread out at that point. At the first aid station, I finally saw another racer and I immediately latched on to him. We ran together and chatted for awhile, but at a certain point, he said I could go ahead, which I did. I actually passed a few guys (!!!) and then got passed by two couples. Both times, I tried to stay with them, but I just couldn’t. In retrospect, I definitely don’t think I was drinking enough during the second loop because my Camelbak was almost full when I finished the race, but at the time, I felt like I was doing okay with my nutrition.
I walked more than I would have liked to during the second loop, but despite that, I still ended up finishing in plenty of time – 6:38 for 31 miles.
I’ve already registered for next year’s race because I know I can do better. That second loop wasn’t what I wanted it to be. But, I am still proud of the finish and for tackling another big, scary goal.
As always, I need to thank Alyssa for preparing me for the race and supporting me through every high and low in my life for the past three years. I also want to thank the volunteers, who were AMAZING! Even though the weather sucked, they were out there cheering for us like we were rockstars all day long. I also want to thank Carl Perkins, the race director, and the other folks who helped to plan and put on this event. I’m fairly certain Carl’s whole family is involved in various ways at this event and that is really going above and beyond!
This is a fantastic event and I’m so excited to be heading back in 2018!