Sunday, January 8, 2012

Never Take a Mile for Granted Again: PHUNT 50k Recap

I mean that when I say it. From here on out a mile will never be an after thought. It will never be under appreciated. I'm so used to be able to clip through one in 8 minutes. So on Saturday, when it was taking me 20 minutes to get through one, it made me re-evaluate a lot of things. If I could sum up the PHUNT 50k, my first trail race and my first ultra, in one word it would be humbling. But let's start at the beginning...

The nice thing about winter races is that they start later. We didn't have to toe the line until 9 am. I was wide awake and jumped out of bed before my alarm even went off at 6. It had been days since I'd gotten a real run in because I was sick. I felt like I did right before the marathon in November: ready to run and end the taper!

I had packed up my bags the night before. As usual I overpacked, but I was so unsure about the weather, that I decided to bring 3 different outfits just in case. I also packed two PB&Js, two granola bars, bananas, fig newtons, two packs of Sport Beans, and a Naked juice to share with Mike. 

Sophie not included

For breakfast I ate a bowl of oatmeal, a granola bar, and a banana. After the dogs went for a quick walk we were out the door and on the road by 7:30 am. 

Time to go!
The roads were empty and we arrived at the park where the race was being held in about 50 minutes. Before I go further I should mention that this was a fat-ass, meaning I paid nothing to register. The event was thrown by the TrailDawgs running club. All they would guarantee to provide was the marked course, some water and gatorade at the two aid stops, and maybe some soup and hotdogs at the finish. This I was all prepared for, but one thing I did not think about was restroom facilities. At big road races I'm used to lines of porta potties, which no doubt some of my registration fee goes towards. Since this was a free event, however, all the runners had to share one porta potty at the park entrance. Fortunately I didn't have an emergency, but I always like going one last time before starting so I waited on line for about 25 minutes until my turn came. Next time I would probably show up 15 minutes earlier to avoid this. 

At that point in the morning it was about 45 degrees out and we knew temps were going to go up to the mid-50s so I opted for shorts, a long sleeve, and compression socks, and Mike decided to wear shorts, a tech tee, and a light jacket that wouldn't be too heavy to tie around his waist if need be.

All of the hundred some runners gathered at the start line around 9 am. The race director said a few words about the trail markings and then we were off! 

Start line
The 50k course was made up of two identical 25k loops. Each loop was divided into three sections and there was one aid station that you would pass at both mile 5 and mile 10 (and then mile 20 and mile 25 on the second loop). The course did not measure an exact 50k (31.07 miles). Each loop was about 15.8 miles, making the total distance around 31.6. Mike was planning on doing one loop with me and I'd tackle the second on my own.

It looks a lot nicer on paper
To recap the actual race I'm going to break it down by how I was feeling each chunk of miles.

Mile 0-0.5: Oh my god this is amazing! It's so beautiful! I love running! Everyone is so chill and laid back. This is just going to be a relaxing 31 mile trail run!

Mile 0.5-5: Wow, this terrain is actually pretty tough. It's pretty hilly too. This is kind of hard. I can't even enjoy the scenery. I have to look down and make sure I don't trip. It's ok though. I'm already hungry. Need some Sport Beans. I can finish in my goal time (sub 6) if I make it to the 5 mile aid station in under 55 minutes. It will be fine, right?

Mile 5 Aid Station: Thank god! I'm so hungry and I thought the first five miles were really hard. Oh wow look at this spread! Cookies, Fig Newtons, peanut butter crackers, Pringles, M&Ms! Screw running. I just want to stay here and eat.

Mile 5-7ish: Okay this second section is much better. Flatter, wider paths. Beautiful forest. Nice downhill too. I'm flying now!

Mile 7ish-10: Okay, now it's sucking again. Also, I just tripped over a root, landing on my hands luckily, but I feel like I just effed up the toes on my right foot. Ouch. Oh god this is taking forever! People are passing us. Where the hell is the aid station. We've been running almost two hours now! How are we not at mile 10 yet?! My legs are feeling a little sore.

Mile 10 Aid Station: It's about damn time. Ultra aid stations make my life! More cookies! Seriously though, I'm starving again. How am I burning through my energy this quickly? We've been running a little over two hours. If I can get through the last section in another hour and run the second loop in the same amount of time I think I can make sub 6 or just over.

Mile 10-15.8: I hate running. If I see another tree again I'm going to stab someone. I don't see where I could possibly pull the motivation to do another loop. To do this all over again seems impossible. How can I rationalize quitting? 15.8 miles is still good right? Maybe this doesn't have to be my first ultra. Oh my god why is there so much mud? I can't run up or downhill with all of this mud or I'll risk slipping off a cliff! I'm not doing another loop. I feel like a failure. Why did I think I could do this? This is the never ending 5 miles.

Start/Finish Line Aid Station: There's the aid station! I see it! I can't believe one loop is done! I'm starving again. I need to eat. Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins?? Hell yes. And ginger ale? Pour me a glass of that! I need a sugar rush.

Mile 15.8-16: Wait am I running again? Like running the second loop? I can't believe I'm doing this. Oh well, here we go.

Mile 16-20: This first section is going a lot better the second time around. I'm going slower, but it seems easier.

Mile 20 Aid Station: Oh my gosh is that Mike? He drove to meet me! Still pretty hungry. Better grab some M&Ms.

Heading out from the aid station after mile 20
Mile 20-25: I like this section just as much as I liked it the first time around. Why couldn't the whole race be like this? Oh look some other runners. Let's talk to them. Hey, one of those other girls is also doing her first trail and first ultra. And that guy ran 100 miles. I'll talk to him.

Coming back to the aid station after around 25 miles
Mile 25 Aid Station: Not hungry. No time to waste. I've got a little over 5 miles to the finish! Woo let's do this!

Everything hurts!
Mile 25-31.6: This section feels just as long as the first time around. Not quite as muddy anymore. The ground is firming up. Very few runners left now. Just keep running. Just keep running. The sun is starting to go down. It's getting chilly. I can hear the finish line! There it is!

DONE: 31.6 miles, 3,000 feet of climbing, 7:21:57, average 13:59 pace

The way that dog looks is exactly how I felt the whole time
I had about 150 miles on my New Balance Minimus shoes before this race, but I think only after this were they sufficiently broken in. 

Thanks to muddy trails and stream crossings
I was really worried about what my feet would look like when I took my socks and shoes off. Remember when I tripped and stubbed my toes?

They look worse today. Trust me.
I'll save the rest of my recap for another day. It would be too much for one post. Suffice to say though, I learned a lot about myself during those 7+ hours.

Don't forget to VOTE for me to join Team Refuel! Vote 'Kristin Hoeberlein' once a day now through January 15th!


  1. Awesome job!! Your thoughts pretty much summed up how I felt during my first last fall too. Miles never seemed to go by so slowly and definitely humbling! Trails are such different animals! I'll also never forget the first time hitting the aid station and seeing the site of people shoving food in their hungry! Congrats!

  2. @abbi - I just went back a re-read your 50k recap. I remember reading it the first time right after you posted it and not really feeling like I could identify with it. But boy oh boy I get where you were coming from now. I'm confident we'll be able to tough it out at HAT in a few months!

  3. Congrats on finishing! It would have been easy to say screw it and quit but you didn't...FANTASTIC JOB!

  4. Congrats on the first ultra finish! I wanted to do this race, but sadly was out of town and missed it. And welcome to the insanity that is being an'll be sucked in quickly!!

  5. CONGRATS!!!

    (PS - Some race reports get long-winded, and my eyes glaze over. Yours... I read every word and laughed often. I'm sure you weren't cracking jokes while running, but you made the recap thoroughly amusing!)


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