My first PHUNT

As we approach the 13th annual PHUNT 25K/50K trail race on January 16, 2016, the Trail Dawgs are going to post runner's stories about their very first PHUNT experience.  Even if you haven't run PHUNT you can still participate.  Simply email what attracted you to PHUNT, and what you hope to get out of it.  Provide as little, or as much detail, as you'd like.  Our hope is that everybody gets to learn a bit more about the runners crazy enough to run a trail race in the dead of winter, as well as what makes PHUNT so special to them.

11/06/15 - My first PHUNT, by Don Stockley

2016 will be my first PHUNT.  So I'll share how I got here. Not being a runner for most of my life, I decided to use running as a means to get in better shape.  I know round is a shape, but that's not the shape that my wife married when we first met;-)   I also realize that as a Scouter I make a big impression on the boys I meet with each week, and part of the program is personal fitness.  So it's best to eat the bread that I bake, and follow the program. 

So I started running, but pushed myself too hard right out of the gate, and sustained some minor injuries.
One of my running friends suggested I start with a C25K program.  Being the thrifty person I am, I figured the best way for me to ensure that I continue to follow through on my investment of $3.99 is to sign up for a race a little past the expected completion time of the program.  I set a goal to finish less than 30 minutes in the race. Not too hard, but still a bit of a push for a non-runner. So between September and November 2013, I made sure I never missed a C25K session. My PR to this point was an 11 minute mile over 3.62 miles.  Not quite where I wanted to be going into race day, but I know I can run the 5k, just can hit that 30 minute mark.  It was a cold November morning race starts at 9am in Wilmington.  I'm at the back as a newbie should be, juices are flowing and I'm pumped.  Gun goes off, and everyone is moving.  I find myself running past the walkers, people with strollers, and the chatty folks. Next thing I know, I'm near the front on the heels of the really cool looking runners.  I'm thinking “Wow this is great!”  The first mile goes by 8:40, and I'm thinking this is going to be a breeze.  Shortly before mile 2, I could see a water station up ahead. I had never drank water during a run but I've seen the folks throw back water on TV and thought, “hey, why not try this”.  If I had actually thought about this first, I would have probably made a better decision.  Alas, I was on the high, and in the midst of figuring out which marathon I was going to sign up for. The aid station came, I took a cup and threw it into my face just as I was inhaling. Needless to say, it was not as graceful as you see the Olympians do it.  I ended up stopping for a bit to catch my breath knowing I had just killed the first mile and a half so no worries right. After I regained a regular breathing pattern, I started to run again, with what felt like concrete shoes.  My legs were burning and hurting like I had never felt before, and those glorious plans just moments ago in running a marathon left me just trying to get this 5 k over with.  I hit mile 2 and the total time was 19:09, still within reach of a 30 minute 5k, but my legs were dying, I killed the first third like everyone warned me NOT to do. Here I was struggling to just keep moving forward, but I was determined to keep going without walking.  I came to a bridge and my son was up above taking pictures I thought I can't stop now but he won't see me walk while under the bridge and its just 20 steps of walking and then I can pick it back up. I listened to the devil and did just that. I walked under the bridge at the same time another guy who was struggling passed me. I used that guy as motivation, I've gotta beat him I told myself.  We must have been using each other in the same way because for the final .8 miles we switched places a few times.   The final stretch I found a new gear and ran past him just before I saw the clock change from 29 to 30.  I crossed the line 30:19, just shy of my goal.  Lesson learned here; don't try new things during a race.

I decided to do PHUNT mainly because Carl said it would be fun. As a person who like to backpack and hike, I figured at worst I hike the 16 miles for a good day outside.  But I am going to try to run most of it until I rolled my ankle backpacking a few weeks ago.   I'm resting it up, in hopes of possibly running half the trail.
One way or another I will complete the first loop then have a beer and talk with all the other crazy folks enjoying the outdoors.


11/02/15 - My first PHUNT, by Bryan Slotterbach

I didn't find PHUNT, it found me. My first was 2015. I honestly have no clue how I heard about it.
It was cold and dreary on the first loop and cold, dreary, and raining hard during the second loop!
How fun is that! Lots of friends and fun times! But seeing Carl standing in the rain and in the mud at mile 30 cheering us all on after 7 long and cold hours put a smile on my face. PHUNT is your baptism to real trail running. Anybody can run a trail race in summer, but real trail runners run PHUNT.

11/02/15 - My first PHUNT, by Chris Beers-Arthur

My first PHUNT was my second trail race. I had run the Stonemill 50 in November and broken a toe somewhere around mile 20. I didn't think I'd be ready for another race by January, so I didn't register. By mid December, I was ready to run again. I emailed the race director the week before the run, explained why I had not registered, and asked if there was any way I could get in to the race. Since someone else had dropped, there was a space, but it was too late to process the registration fee.
He let me pay my way in hot dogs. What a race!

10/10/15 - My first PHUNT, by Kiran Koons

My first PHUNT was in 2015.  I love snow. I love running in snow even more.
After seeing the 2014 PHUNT snow-fest pictures, I figured with all the El Nina La Nino talk :)
I'll get to experience that at PHUNT sometime.  So I signed up (for the 50K). Showed up. Finished the first loop. Heard about the soup.  Decided no more loop. End of PHUNT # 1 :)

To be continued….

10/04/015 - My first PHUNT, by Cathy Hilliard

2015 was my first PHUNT.  I got a random text the end of November 2014 from fellow PHUNT runner, Jeff, that read something like, “15 mile trail race in fair hill Jan 3rd. I need you there.” I’d somehow coerced him to run a half-marathon in Fair Hill earlier that summer, so I figured I owed him a race.

I was running the Rehoboth Marathon the first weekend in December, so I thought I’d be in great shape for PHUNT. In such great shape, I actually considered doing the 50K and waited to register mulling over which distance to run. Jeff texted me again to say the race was getting close to capping while I procrastinated making a decision.

It’s good I decided on the 25K, as I ended up with a wicked case of plantar fasciitis just before the Rehoboth Marathon exactly a month before PHUNT.  My plan was that all the tree roots and hills and uneven terrain would actually help my tortured heel.  Good stretching exercises, right?

The forecast looked miserable; sleet, possibly snow.  Jeff and I wondered what the heck we’d gotten ourselves into.  But off we went to the race.  Jeff disappeared at the start as I am always extra slow in the beginning.  The sleet held off until about mile seven or so, but then it came in full force.  I convinced myself I was curing my plantar fasciitis as I tip-toed through the roots and slid along the increasingly slippery trails.  Pelting ice and pain aside, it was a fantastic race.  I’d never seen such aid stations before, full buffet style, complete with beer and jello shooters.

Jeff made it in way ahead of me and was waiting with a freezing cold IPA as I hobbled across the finish line.  Are we nuts?  We’re both doing it again.

10/02/15 - My first PHUNT, by Denny N.

I'm Denny N. and this will be my first PHUNT. I had some major shoulder and low back injuries in my twenties, which took years to rehab. So, I have been making up for lost time with hiking, sup, mma, kayaking, and now endurance sports!
I got started running 3 years ago, when a friend talked me into a tough mudder, while we were drinking at a rock concert. I couldn't run a 5k at the time, so I couldn’t believe that I committed to a ten mile race with obstacles?  I have done triathlons, different road races, and a few half marathons. I'm a back of the pack runner, who is getting faster, but most of my focus has been cross training with triathlons, mud obstacle races, and increasing distances in swimming, biking, and running. I have done one 25K; The Maryland Heat race at Patapsico park(Avalon area), with plenty of hills.
I love trail running.  I never take my "walkman" into the woods. I always did when I was street running to keep me from getting bored.  I have hiked dozens of trails, so I love the fact that when I get tired or if a hill appears, I can revert to hiking.

Leave No Trace!

10/02/15 - My first PHUNT, by Ryan Espulgar

My first PHUNT was 2015.  It was my second ultra after crossing the dark side of running 2 months prior.  I am a slow road runner, and I had not been having fun with my marathon training and road running in general during the later part of 2014.  It's probably because I signed up for 3 fall marathons that year? I don't know.  Anyway, I was looking for a more fun type of running.
After running my first 50K in November 2014, I asked my friend Mel about some nice 50Ks that I could do since I had no idea that an ultrarunning community existed, and that there were actually a lot of ultra races around.
He told me about PHUNT, and raved about the fun & tight community of runners who usually do it. I asked if it was hilly, since I don't do (I HATE and AVOID) hills, and he said it has some.
But overall, he recommended it despite what I thought would be not-so-good running conditions, like snow and cold, roots and rocks, and hills.

I signed up because I had friends doing it too, Mel and Tom. A few weeks before the race, we came up to see the course along with some others who are doing the training run.
This was when I first saw a different breed of runners. I'm not kidding, I lived a sheltered life.  These runners were different -- they talk and laugh when they run, they even make jokes; they mostly wear dark colors; they have all kinds of gear I didn't even know existed.  Gaiters, running vests, buffs, special gloves, etc; their shoes had weird tread patterns with even weirder brands like Salomon, New Balance, Altra, etc, what the heck are those?; men have beards - long ones too; some also have long hair, like really?; and the list of weirdness went on and on.
I knew I was in a place I have never been to, almost like an adventure, kinda like me in the wrong place. It got me excited and intimidated at the same time.
I met the RD Carl, he was special, in all imaginable ways that word would imply. So the training run commenced and everyone went all different ways, we got lost, we made wrong turns, we had rest stops, we were looking at maps, checking phone GPS, then Carl showing out of nowhere to direct us where to go, etc. In short, it was not the training run I was used to. We did 10 miles and I was totally wiped and done.

Race day came, and I was nervous because I didn't think I could do the distance with the rooty terrain and hills combined. Everyone was gathered in this pavilion and was having fun, and taking pictures, and heckling each other, and everyone seemed to know each other. This was definitely not my usual pre-race scenario, these people are weird, I thought.  I started conservatively, but being the roadrunner that I was, it got too slow for me. 11:00 min/mile pace, are you kidding me? So I picked it up and passed some people. It was cold and raining, miserable, but I was not concerned about it. I wanted to run. I fell twice within the first 2 miles, great.
Who falls while they're running? I never did PHUNT before.  I finished the first loop feeling exhausted and beaten, then I saw Carl directing and cheering runners at the turnaround point. He yelled, "Looking good Ryan!"
I was puzzled. He knows my name? Why would an RD know my name? It felt nice though. It made me feel special. I was a special runner because the RD remembered me from the training run.
This made me forget I was tired and took off for the second loop like I was fresh. I ran still thinking about how Carl could have remembered my name. I realized while running the second loop that this race is special because it made me feel special. I decided right then, I will do it again next year, even when I have yet to finish the race. I finished PHUNT muddy, cold, whimpering, and had lots of first-time running memories going through my head while I was out there on the course. I went in the pavilion to get warm and sit down, and they have soup and real food for us runners. What? Is this free? How much can I eat of this? Are we limited to one serving? Is it either this food or that, or can I have all of them? I had all of them. It was free too. That was nice. I went home happy, contented, and looking forward to next year's event.

Days after the race, photos were uploaded to Facebook.  $35 registration fee was cheap, ahhh, this is how they get you. Photos that will cost an arm and a leg, which I always seem to end up buying anyway. You see, I only run for the running pictures. But these PHUNT photos were free. Maybe they were low quality? No. They were awesome. This race is something special.

I signed up for 2016 PHUNT last night, because I knew I'll be treated like a special runner and the event will be special too. Then as I was writing this story, I still can't forget how Carl remembered my name last year.
I've run a lot of races but I've only kept one race bib and it's still on my wall hanging, my PHUNT bib. As I was looking at it, it hit me. The bibs were customized with our names! That's how Carl knew my name! Dammit! Now I don't feel so special anymore. But I already signed up, and I can't request for a refund on the grounds that I don't feel as special anymore.
Oh well, I guess I'll be there running to see everyone this January, against my will.

10/02/15 - My first PHUNT, by Thomas Vincent

It sucked, but in a good way.

10/02/15 - My first PHUNT, by Emily Zaitz

So, this will be my first PHUNT race.  I started running out at Fair Hill a couple of years ago when I relocated from Kansas to go to graduate school at UD.
I ran trails back home, but I didn't know of very many out here.  I found about PHUNT through some members of Pike Creek Running club, but I missed signing up for last years race.
I'll have a few 50k under my belt and running JFk for the first time in Nov. I love running at Fair Hill in the fall, but looking forward to the challenging conditions of a January run.
I was hoping this would be a good course in prep for my first time running HAT in March.
Any suggestions of Prep and training considering time of the race would be greatly appreciated.

Emily Zaitz

10/02/15 - My first PHUNT, by Karen Carey

My first PHUNT will be 2016, so what led me here?

In a word, Boston.  The tragedy of the bombings in Boston in April 2013 so moved me, I decided to get off my fat rear and start running.
In the days after that tragedy, I committed to do a C25K program, and couldn't even run a minute.  To put some incentive into it, I decided to do a 5K.
Doing a little research, I found out that the Baltimore Running Festival for 2013 was on my 47th Birthday.  How cool would that be?
I worked hard to get it to where I could run a 5K without stopping (took to July and it was 45 minutes).  I wound up running that BRF 5K in under 31 minutes.
In May 2014, I ran my first half marathon just 1 year and 3 weeks after starting to run, and in a pretty decent time (2:22).

Here it is, just two weeks before my 49th birthday, and I've so far done 6 HM, and a total of 52 races of varying distances.  I have decided that 2016 will be my Marathon Year.
I will run that 26.2 for my 50th Birthday, which the October Baltimore Running Festival always runs the weekend of my birthday.
PHUNT 25K will be my first race over a half marathon.  And I do love trail running, so it seems like a good match.  I have doubts, though... am I good enough for this?
Or, maybe I'm just as crazy as the rest of you PHUNTers!

Why PHUNT?  I was poked, prodded and hounded by friends!

10/02/15 - My first PHUNT, by Katherine Lin

I started running (more seriously) at the end of summer 2013. I started out slow (at approximately 15:00/mi) and followed the C25K program to my first trained 5-kilometer race in October 2013.
Fast forward to 2014, I began to run half marathons. As a back of the packer, I took my time to enjoy the races, and explore new cities & neighborhoods that I had never been before.
From March to November, my (road) half marathon time slowly decreased from more than 3 hours (14:20/mi) to roughly 2.5 hours (11:54/mi) with a more dedicated running schedule.
One day, I decided to mix up my training on roads with trails. I brought my road running shoes to Loch Raven Reservoir and had my first exposure to trail running.
I quickly learned the hard way road shoes are not the best for trail runs. Despite rolling my foot, it didn’t stop me from deeply falling in love with the trails. I knew I will become a trail runner one day.

The new year of 2015 rolled around. I gave myself a goal to explore more roads and trails on foot.  I also set out to build a good endurance base for running my first trail race in 2016.
I started to pack my running gear when I travel, and squeeze in runs in between planned activities. In summer 2015, I volunteered at the Eastern States 100—a 100-mile trail race at Little Pine State Park, Pennsylvania.
I knew I was nowhere near the fitness level to run a 100 miler at that point. However, I thought it would be wonderful to know the community, see the gorgeous scenery and help fellow runners finish their race.
I wasn’t disappointed. The race reaffirmed my will and excitement to embrace the trail whenever possible.

Signing up for PHUNT was not a hard choice. I knew about the race through online searches in the fall of 2014. At the time, I barely knew anything about trail running and ultras.
I simply kept the race at the back of my mind. Over the past year, I continued to educate myself about trail running (e.g. podcasts, YouTube Channels, etc.).
When I was looking into races held in 2016, I found multiple races in the area. I read their race reports. PHUNT 25K/50K stood out to be the one for me.
Not only is it a trail race in January (which means, cooler temperature and softer surface to run on), it’s also located at Fair Hill NRMA (a place that I have never been to; an extra point for the adventure). What’s more?
According to online reports, this race is well-organized; and Carl, the RD, is known for his humor! What an added bonus. This is perfect! I signed up for the race and am really looking forward to it!

For my first PHUNT in 2016, my goals are simple: Run slow, enjoy the adventure, smile and have fun!

10/01/15 - My first PHUNT, by Dylan Armajani

2015: It was cold, wet, rather miserable really.  I ran faster so I could finish faster.
I ate 6 bowls of soup at the finish and then got drunk on wine at Maggie's house.
I can't wait to do it again.

10/01/15 - My first PHUNT, by Sigurd Knippenberg

This will be my first PHUNT, and my third 50K.  What attracted me was that it was:

a) in January,(since I was looking for a Jan/Feb race)
b) relatively close
c) one of my friends was already signed up (Judith Weber)
d) that you also had a 25K option so I was able to convince my girlfriend (Elisabeth Jakobsen) to sign up too (it's her first long trail race).


09/30/15 - My first PHUNT, by Tim Gorzynski

The 2009 PHUNT was was my very first one.  I had run my first marathon in late 2005, and had managed to block from my mind the pain generated during that race.
So I worked my way up the ladder of silliness by doing some more road marathons, and finally trail marathons.  But, running a long distance race on a trail in January seemed like the ultimate challenge for a guy in his late 50's. OK, no snickering please.  I know there are absurdities greater than PHUNT (can you spell B-A-D-W-A-T-E-R?), but for me, PHUNT was an ultimate.

So, since I would always take two weeks off from work during the end of December holidays, I figured I would just go up to White Clay Creek state park and run trails, instead of roads everyday before the race.  And I did.  Yes sir, I did.  There was even a really windy day during those last two weeks of December that did not deter me from running my favorite trail that also had a lot of up and down sections.  It was so windy in fact, that I kept looking up for branches, while I ran, that might break off and hit me. There was even a pine tree that had come down along one of the trails.
Since I couldn't just climb over it (remember it was a pine), and I didn't want to turn around, I went off trail until I could get through a narrow section of the tree without being stabbed to death by needles. BTW, I was wearing shorts that went down just below my knees.  This is an important fact.  I few days (or less) later I ran my first PHUNT in something like six and a half hours.  Not a great time, but not too bad either.  What the heck, it was still daylight when I finished, so I was happy. Oh yeah, least I forget, I was wearing the same pair of shorts that I had been running in for the previous two weeks in White Clay.  No, I had not washed them. It was winter right?  Ya don't usually sweat much during the winter, right?  At least I didn't that year.

Well sir, a couple of days after PHUNT my legs started to itch, but mostly just below my knees.  Within a couple more days the itching had not only NOT stopped, but had gotten a lot worse and started oozing fluid.  It didn't take too long for me to realize that when I had gone off trail through the fallen tree while training I must have gotten poison ivy oil on the bottom edge of my shorts, and had spent six and a half hours during PHUNT rubbing the oil all over and into my skin.
Of course, since I am a man, I did self treatment for close to two weeks before I finally went to the doctor and then only because both my ankles and lower part of my legs had swollen to the point that it started to scare me.  My family physician took one look at my legs, shook his head and said "Well my friend it's too late to prescribe any steroids."  So, he told me to keep cleaning the oozing wounds and get some compression socks to reduce the swelling.  Fortunately he did not tell me to stop running PHUNT.  A recommendation, of course, that I would have ignored.

09/30/15 - My first PHUNT, by Bob Gross

My first PHUNT was THE first PHUNT.  It was chilly, and it rained hard.  The course was 2, 13 mile loops, and then a 5 mile loop.  Almost everyone, including myself, dropped after the first 13 miles.
The trails were shin deep with water and we were soaked through and cold.  As is the case with weather, as we headed back to Harford County, the sun came out and it turned into a nice afternoon.
I believe only 2 or 3 successfully completed the whole race.  The 2 RASAC finishers were Tim Gavin, and Mike Frank.  We had about 10 RASAC trail runners there that day.

Some other memorable PHUNTS include a 70+ degree day where Seth McElroy and myself saw a snake on the trail.
3 very cold years.  One of the early PHUNTS the ground was so frozen and the horse hooves prints made the trails very bumpy.  That year killed my feet.  Another cold year, Jeff Hinte and I finished in 18 degree weather and the wind was really bad in the fields.

Of course there was the winter of 2014 with the 4-6" of snow and start of 4 degrees with a high of 28.  I enjoyed that race, and the fire at mile 23 was a save of my feet as there were starting to get very cold.  Of course post holing through the drift at the last field was tough as well as finishing on the ice covered road.

I particularly like the cold PHUNT race.  I believe I have finished 5 complete PHUNTs, and probably ran parts of another 5 or 6 over the years.  It is a great event has certainly grown in popularity and entertainment value!

Thank you for continuing the race.

Bob Gross