Ouch. I just noticed my blog posting numbers and last year I only did 11 entries! I'll chalk that up to the rough year. You know the whole, I really don't want to talk about it thing and put one's own head in the sand. So, 2015.
Anyways, 2016 is now in effect and the first race is out of the way. Like last year, I kicked off the racing season with PHUNT, a race hosted by the TrailDawgs running club. The race takes place down in Elkton, Maryland at the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area. Two years ago, it was still a fatass but under the guidance of Carl Perkins has become an official race. Also, two years back Carl ordered up 4 degree temps with 5 inches of fresh now on a 50K loop. After some tweaking, it is now a 25K loop that you have the option of doing once or twice.
Following last year's freezing rain year, I opted to sign up for just the 25K. I did this back last January when registration opening. Part of this was done for sanity as last year work hammered me in the weeks leading up to the race. (It was the end of our fiscal year and I work for a financial institution.)
About a week before the race this year, I thought about doing the 50K. Weather was looking good and I was feeling good about my running. I've been taking it easy on myself instead of pushing as soon as the calendar flips. One of my objectives in training/racing this year is to build myself up. That means in terms of distance raced and mileage. Kind of the quality versus quantity model. So the idea of doing 50K doesn't exactly jive with taking it one step at a time. Carl encouraged me to make the decision on race day. (At the end of the day, official race policy was everyone was given the option to do one or two loops. Your personalized bib had pull tags for each distance.)
Still going into race week, I was mentally thinking about doing a 50K while telling myself my body will decide if I was ready. As incentive, I told myself I would take Sunday off running if I did the 50K. That would lead to maybe going to the movies too.
Anyways, on Thursday, I prepped my gear and laid out my clothes for the 16th. (I find it is easier than doing it the night before.) I dumped some Tailwind into my Nathan handheld and Nathan Peak bottles. I was leaning towards the Peak for running since I can lose some the arm weight but wanted to have both available to me.
Race morning, I hoped in the car, put on Duran Duran's Paper Gods and began my drive to MD. I stopped on the way out of my neighborhood to put air in a tire that was a little low and add some gas to the tank. One of those was doable. Frustratingly, the air at the gas station was not on. Grrr.... However, I knew I had good enough air to get to to MD and knew I would be passing a Wawa with air in Newark, DE. So, I got air closer to my destination. But I got the job done. It's the little things that make one race ready and properly inflated tires are one of those things. Despite, the extra stops, I got to Fair Hill an hour before the race and scored a fine parking spot.
Once in the activity hall, I dropped my bag in a corner, got my bib and headed to the potty line. Let's say if the urge to go had come near Wawa, I would have saved some time but alas, I was in line for the men's room. Thankfully, I got there when I did and not much later. And at least it was a warm wait as opposed to the port-o-john option outside. Still I admit it was a little longer than I hoped. I'd say that impacted my pre-race socializing to near zero. I had bottles to fill with water and shoes to put on. I did those to Clutch's Psychic Warfare album. It was so rockin' I didn't even need to bust out the drum sticks. Shoe-wise, I opted to go with my Montrail FluidFlex. Not the II but the original. I had the FluidFlex II with me but I wanted a little lighter weight. Part of me had thought about bringing the Caldorado's to the race for the extra grip since there was bound to be some mud from the rain during the overnight. In the end, those stayed at home as I felt I could get away with the lighter shoe. And for the most part I did. Aside from a few sections, I maintained solid contact with the trail. Of course, one of the toughest sections was the first field we run the edge of. That was sloppy.
Before I forget, I should tell you I ended up going with the handheld as I couldn't get the Peak to sit comfortable enough and didn't have the time to play with it. Lesson: Get a run in with it on sometime soon as it has been a little while. Maybe I got a bit chunky since it felt like it was digging more than usual. (It always digs initially before settling in nicely. I'm just built weird.)
Just shy of 9am, Carl made announcements and led everyone out of the hall to the start with the sounds of AC/DC's Highway to Hell. Before we knew it, we were all lined up and ready to go. Some additional announcement's were made that I admit I didn't really hear. Then we were off. Not far out of the gate I took the lead. I really did not want to get stuck behind people on muddy singletrack so I saw it as little option but to go out front. Last year, I went out and went out hard only to not have a good day. This year, I did not push the pace as much. Part of this was, I still had not decided if I was doing 25K or 50K. For the early miles, I was going back and forth in my head. At the 1st aid station, I was thinking 25K still. By the second, I was leaning towards 50K. You could say at that point, I was feeling good. Then again, you could say that this section was the easiest to flow on. It had the least amount of rolling switchbacks. Those rolling switchbacks at Fair Hill will beat you up. None of the hills are hard but it is slightly roller coaster in some spots. After all the course does manage to somehow squeeze 2100 ft of gain/loss in 25K. (My friend Destrie had 4200ft for 2015's 50K and this year was the same course, just in reverse.) After the second aid station, I felt the course had some of the muddier sections. (Around here, I saw Ryan, who I thought was taking pictures, and tried to flash my Trail WhippAss singlet that was under my white-T. It was cold at the start and I wanted the extra layer. Also, turns out Ryan took video so I look super silly.) On the downhill after the course's covered bridge, I did some slipping. That made me think hard about what the course would be after another 400 people had a chance to pass through. And it was from there on out that I based my 50K decision more on the course conditions than how I was feeling. Maybe, it is because I have an ecological landscape architect at home but I just worry about the environment and felt bad running in the mud by the end since I'm sure we increased erosion damage to the Fair Hill trails. But I'll be the first to tell you, in the last 5 miles, were the course gets twisty again, my hips were not liking me. That really told me....be wise and do 25K today.
Getting to the last climb on a fire road was nice. I knew when I hit it, I was just about done and strode into the finish.
During the 25K, I managed to run comfortably and put in a two minute gap on second. I finished in 1:55:40 on some sloppy trails for an opening win to start 2016. (And while I did the distance I registered for, the fact I did not do 50K means, even in victory..Phunt ALWAYS wins.)
Following the run, I got to hang out with Ryan, Rodney, Emir, Maggie, Jackie and Jeff. Beforehand, I got to see Bryan and Mel. The veggie meatballs as part of the post race food were awesome. Probably, one of the best post race meal options for a vegetarian I'd had.
I'm already looking forward to my next race and building on a reasonable start to 2016. And for the record, I did do a Sunday run. I gave myself a break and only did 5 miles in the afternoon instead of a usual morning long run. But since I didn't do the 50K, I had to do something as I told myself only a day off if I completed 50K.
At least the run was done during the snow.....hopefully, the next race won't be in the snow.