My 2018 “race” season starts Saturday at the Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Elkton, MD. I throw quotes in there because while I will be wearing a bib, I won’t really be racing at Phunt. It’s kinda tough to be in race shape after only a couple weeks of increased training volumes. So for the third year in a row, this will be more of a really long training run than a race. This makes it a little hard to get up and excited for the race. It doesn’t help much that it’s the middle of January and the weather is typically less than perfect. I love spending a day running around in the woods, however my enthusiasm is tempered when it’s literally freezing out. The race atmosphere and camaraderie at Phunt among the runners and volunteers definitely offsets this to a large degree. So even though I may not look forward to the race as much as I do others, I definitely look forward to it more than I would any other long training run.
The huge variability in the weather forecast over the past couple days has also been yanking around my expectations. First it’s supposed to be high 30s, which would be awesome considering most of my runs over the past 2 weeks have been below 20 degrees. Then it was supposed to be 42 degrees and raining (aka my least favorite running weather). Next day it’s a high of 47 and no rain. Now it looks like there’s a slight chance of rain at the start with temperatures starting at 33 degrees and dropping into the high 20s by the time I finish up in the middle of the afternoon. So the weather is likely to either be incredibly awesome or sucktacular. I guess I’ll just need to plan for the worst and then be pleasantly surprised when that doesn’t happen.
The good news is that since I’ve run this race twice before, I have a very good idea what to expect from the course. The trails aren’t too technical with 3600 feet of elevation gain. The turns are well marked and there are plenty of aid stations with great food options to keep me moving along. I’ve finished in 5:56 last year and 6:19 the year before. While I’ve increased my mileage recently, I’m still short of where I was heading into last year’s race (150 miles over the past month vs. 167). This is quite a bit more than my first year (110 miles) so my guess is I’ll end up a little over 6 hours with a best case scenario of 5:50 and 6:30 if everything goes against me. My motivation the second and final loop will be to get done as quickly as possible so I can rush home and watch the Eagles/Falcons game. Regardless of how I perform, it should be a great day in the woods. I’m truly blessed to be able to run these distances and I’ll try and keep that thought in the front of my mind as I go along.
Good luck to all 600 of the other runners out there on Saturday.