Monday, February 1, 2016

It's Party time! -- PHUNT 50K

I had such crazy, high expectations going into this year's PHUNT 50K that I thought there was no way it could live up to them.  But Carl, being as amazing as he is, exceeded my expectations.  PHUNT 50K was by far the most fun I've had at an ultra in a long time.

I swear Bryan is at EVERY race

As you remember from my 2015 recap, it felt like just an ok year and even though PHUNT was a great event last year,  it wasn't that good for me personally.  I really didn't want to start off the year feeling blah again.  So even though, we just kept saying PHUNT is all just for fun and it doesn't matter, deep down it did matter to me.  I needed to run it better than last year.   It just felt very important for my mental state starting off 2016.   So because of this, I did feel a bit nervous the week leading up to the race.  I was thinking maybe 2014 was just a fluke or maybe I just lost my running mojo and would never have a decent race again.

My best #twb friend, Kristen :-)
Going into this year's PHUNT, I did feel good in the fact that I wasn't sick for two weeks leading up to it like last year and this year I was going to wear my Lone Peaks instead of worn down Olympus like last year.  So those two factors alone should make this year's race much better.   Also, much to Carl's disappointment, this year's weather was looking pretty nice. 
re-united with Eastern States #teamdedic member Sandy!

One of the many great things about PHUNT is that it has a 9 am start time.  Even if you have a couple hour drive to get there, you still don't have to get up at the crack of dawn.  For us, it's only an hour, so we didn't even leave our house until a little after 7.   All the pre and post race festivities take place in a heated hall at the start/finish area.  We got our numbers quickly and immediately saw so many of our running friends.  Another perk of the PHUNT is that there are not really many options as far as races in this area in January, so almost ALL of our ultra running friends in the PA, MD, NJ, DE and VA area come to it.  And as another year of ultra running has passed, we have become closer to many friends and formed many new friendships.  I almost didn't use the bathroom before the start because of the many conversations I was having!  But that is a good thing, it was so great to catch up in person with so many people. 
Mo was working the race, saw him at Aid station 3!

Before long, Carl was giving us his pep talk and leading us outside with "Highway to Hell" blasting over the PA .  We learned our lesson from last year that Carl like to lead everyone around this loop to the starting line when actually you could just walk right over to it.  You didn't trick us this time Carl!!! ;-)  It had rained alot the night before so we knew it was going to be a muddy, sloppy day but it was bright and sunny out so it was going to be a beautiful day.  The only downside was that it was sunny and warmer than expected.  I almost never leave home without my running sunglasses no matter what the forecast which Emir always harasses me about "why did you bring those??  isn't it annoying to have them sit on your head?!?"  So not wanting to listen to that, I didn't even pack them, damn.  I also chose to wear a long sleeve compression top underneath a short sleeve tech shirt.  I was worried I would be cold and had a jacket in my pack.  As we got started, I was worried I would be too hot! 
start of the 2016 PHUNT

Emir and I ran the first few miles together.  We were just cruising along, chatting, sloshing around through puddles and mud.  I started to feel like I needed to use the bathroom (again!) ugh I emptied twice before the race but for some reason my stomach was unhappy.  I needed to slow down a bit plus I knew Emir was only doing one lap (25K) due to some pain he had been having in his knee that week so I knew if he felt ok he would be going faster than I wanted to on my first lap.  I wanted to improve on last year's time but I didn't want to feel like crap either.  I wanted to have a fun filled day on the trails.  Luckily the first aid station is at about 3.8 miles so it wasn't too long before I could use the potty.  Of course it being the first aid station and tons of people hitting it at the same time, there was a line.  I grabbed a jello shot from the table and got in line.  All week there were teasers of the goodies that would be at the aid stations and I planned on enjoying as many as possible.  It felt like forever by the time I got out of the potty but what can you do when you really gotto go? 
9 AM jello shot??  DUH

The rest of the first lap went ok.  I was feeling kind of weird for most of it.  I think I might have been overheated.  At the first aid station, I took off my buff hoodie and gloves, definitely did not need those and I felt slightly better but I heated back up quickly once I started moving again.  I unzipped my compression top to let some air flow.  Even though we were in the woods for a good portion of the run, the sun was strong. 
Thanks for the photos Ryan!

With over 400 people running the first lap, I had a lot of distractions. 

All fun and games at Aid station 3 and maybe Bourbon too
I chatted to many people, had some beer and yummy goodies at the aid stations and eventually I was heading up (yes up) the homestretch to the end of the lap.  Emir was waiting for with about a quarter mile to go.  He was harassing me to go faster and to look good for the photographer.  Maybe he should take his own advice next time ;-p   After we passed the photog, we walked the rest of the way, chatting about how the lap went for us.  After I checked in with the race officials, I asked Emir to fill my pack back up with water and I grabbed some coke from the table.  Eventually I realized maybe I should get going if I was going to do the second lap but first a stop in the potty.  All in all I probably spent a solid 10 minutes between laps hanging around with Emir but I knew I was still in good shape to beat last year's time so I wasn't worried. 
Thanks once again to Runningmadphoto for awesome shots during the race!

I left for the second lap essentially on my own.  Out of 436 runners that completed the 25K only 105 of us went back out for a second lap to complete the 50K.  Unlike last year when I think I encountered 1 other person the entire second lap, this year I did see other runners at aid stations and would play leap frog on the trails from time to time, it was just much more of a quiet loop than the first.  Right away I could tell I felt much better.  I was chugging along comfortably and smoothly, even still running some hills.  I'm not sure if it was the break I took between laps, the cup of coke I chugged or the fact that it had become completely overcast and more cool.  Maybe it was all three, whatever it was I felt great and I must have looked it as I received lots of compliments at the aid stations and from fellow runners.  I made my way back to aid station 1.  I decided to go for a Blue Moon this go around instead of the jello shot.  I chugged that bad boy like it was my job, tasted great!  There were some fellow male runners hanging around and they seemed shocked to see me do this, a couple even said "you are drinking the beer?!"  Um DUH! 

After I left this aid station, I caught up to a friend-runner Destrie who I've actually never met in person yet.  We belong to many of the same online running groups and share many of the same running friends.  It was nice to run and chat with her for a few minutes.  Unfortunately she was having some tummy issues so she was run/walking it out and after a bit I took off on my own. 

all by myself
The rest of lap two was quiet and I just enjoyed my alone time in the woods.  It was hard to tell if the mud was worse or better than lap 1.  My shoes got stuck a few times in some extra sticky mud spots but I never fell once, which is some kind of miracle given the slippery conditions in some spots.  I was SUPER happy with how well the Lone Peak 2.5 performed in those conditions.
lone peaks were perfect in the mud
I declined a shot of bourbon at the final aid station, just not my jam.   A few minutes later I felt really glad I did that.  A runner was really struggling and I asked him if he was ok and he said "I just had bourbon"  I was like "ohhhh" and kept going.  About 10 minutes later he flew by me, he's a really fast runner and I thought "oh good he's better"   About 15 minutes after that I encountered him leaning against a tree staring at the sky.  "uh oh"  He cried "don't ever drink bourbon during a race!" Geeze, get a grip man! 

I was very happy and ready to be done when I crossed the finish line in 6:46.  That's 45 minutes faster than last year!! woo hoo!!!  I reached my goal and not only that I felt pretty good.  I felt like I kept it easy all day and I still crushed last year's time, it felt like a good start to 2016.
happy runner

When I finished I received my (new for this year) medal and was handed a PHUNT shot glass!  Then I headed into the hall.  Emir was standing there chatting with a beer in hand.  A bunch of our friends were still there, some had run the 25K and were drinking the last few hours with Emir and a few others had just finished the 50K with me.  The after race was so much more fun than last year as there was actually time left for me to get to hang out, drink and eat.  The fries and pizza were AMAZING after a day on the muddy trails and I got to enjoy a few beers we brought while hanging with our friends. 
some people consumed WAY more calories than they burned ;-)
We were also waiting for our Eastern States #teamdedic member Sandy and my favorite fellow #teamwickedbonkproof teammie Kristen to both finish.  Sandy was having a rough day out there and didn't really want to go back out for the second loop but being the kick ass ultra runner she is, she went back out and we all cheered for her when she came in after successfully completing the 50K.  We were excited but we were still waiting for Kristen.  We were worried about her making the time cutoff.  Last year she was not able to finish the 50K because she did not make the last cutoff.  She was determined to do it this year and I knew she could do it but Emir had told me how she got lost during the first lap so she had lost some time.  But he also said how she had this look of "There's no way I'm not making this!" as she marched in and grabbed her headlamp in case she needed it and marched right back out to loop 2.  We were getting nervous as it got closer to 5 but as I knew she would, she came in a few minutes before the 8 hour cutoff.  We were SO HAPPY!  I knew how much it meant to her to make the 50K in the time limit.  It really was a perfect end to a perfect day. 
the medal is also a bottle opener

and a magnet!
Both last year and this year, Emir and I hesitated about signing up for PHUNT because I mean come on it's an ultra in January in Maryland.  The weather and conditions usually suck and do we really want to go through all that?!  But we always end up having a blast.  Carl does an excellent job of having everything super well organized and just his enthusiasm alone about this event makes me smile.  All the volunteers are excited to be there and help us runners out.  If I'm going to run 31 miles on mucky trails in January, the PHUNT is the only place I want to be :-) 

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