I’m heading back to Elkton, MD this weekend to tackle the Phunt 50K which I ran last year (preview and race report). There is also offer a 25K option, which Kate is doing. The race is very popular (500 runners) and typically sells out months in advance. They already have the 2018 race registration open. It started out 10-15 years ago as a fatass and over the past couple years has developed into a normal paid event. I believe the popularity is derived from equal parts excellent race management, moderate-to-easy trails, and cheap cost ($35). Well, that and your options for mid-winter races in the Philly/Wilmington area are pretty limited.
The course itself is two 15.6 mile loops at the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area. There is about 1 mile of paved roads/paths and 1 mile of pastures/open fields per loop. The rest is glorious single track with about 110 feet of elevation gain per mile. This is a runnable course, which means the hills are fairly short even if they can be somewhat steep in places. The other disclaimer that I have to keep telling myself is that the whole course is only runnable if I pace myself appropriately through the first 20 miles.
Thoughts of PRs Dancing in my Head
Which brings me to my expectations for the race. I think I might have a chance of setting a personal record (PR). There’s so many factors that go into running a fast time though that it’s always tough to say how good a chance – maybe 50/50. That’s not entirely true. I think I have a much better chance than that to set a 50K PR, but I’m trying to keep my expectations in check in case I don’t meet them. Maybe I should just stop being a wimp and dream big.
This is a distance that I haven’t run a whole lot so I don’t consider my PR dating from 2014 to be all that stout for me. Heck, I’ve done more 100-milers (5) to this point in my ultra career than 50Ks (4). And when I have run them, they’ve typically either been as tune-up races where I haven’t put forth maximum effort and/or have experimented with new pacing/nutrition strategies. Or it was like last year where I ran the race to kick off my training block. Up until race day last January, I had only done 2 runs over 10 miles (15 and 20) after taking 2 months off recovering from my first 100-miler finish. This year I’ll have had 10 including 20, 22, and 25 mile training runs. My recent runs have been on the faster side so I think I’m getting into decent shape after about 2 months of steady training.
As with most races, the wildcard is likely to end up being the weather. The extended forecast has swung in a 20 degree range over the past week or so. Two days ago it was supposed to be high 30s as the overnight low getting up to 41 on Saturday. Now the forecast is overnight low of 24, high of 29, and up to an inch of snow in the afternoon. Arrrgh! This is not the type of weather that is conducive to running fast. The temperatures aren’t too bad, but the snow will definitely slow me down. Maybe I’ll get lucky and get most of the course done before it starts to cover the trails.
In order to set a PR, I’ll need run 5 hours 45 minutes or faster. I’ll slow down as I go so will probably need to split of 2:45 for the first loop in order to have any chance of beating this time. This will provide me a minute/mile buffer for the second loop, which should be doable if I can manage my pace early on and conserve a bit of energy. Even if I’m successful, it’s still likely to also require a (short?) trip to the pain cave eventually. I will try to keep this to a minimum, but I’m sure I’ll need to battle through some low points as I’m out on my second lap. As long as I stay focused and keep up with my nutrition, then it shouldn’t be too bad. I hope.
Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it.