Why did I sign up for this race? I never trail race but for some reason the lure of eating and drinking every 4 miles for 25k seemed like a good idea at the time. In my heart, I’m not a trail runner. I like triathlons. I like to mix things up. I admit it, I got bored running the same routes all the time and my best running friends were doing it. FOMO got the best of me. I decided to take this on. It’s only 16 miles. Why not.
It’s January at 8am. The ground is either frozen or muddy. The wind is cutting through my thermal coat. It’s freakin’ cold! These people are crazy! Ok I’m crazy too.
This is my idea of fun. While others stay out late I get up early. I get up at the “butt crack of dawn” to run, ride and swim. My friends do it too. It’s how we stay in touch. There’s nothing better than having a solid training buddy. You get to know each other quickly. You learn about their worries, their likes and dislikes and yes you even learn how to pee in the woods when you can’t wait. I know, TMI it’s what you do.
I’m running in the woods with other people, walking up slick hills made of snow, wet leaves and mud. It’s the kind of mud that could devour your shoe in an instant. The other people are always friends talking about their latest adventures. I’m the lone runner, so I try to just ask basic questions like: how many miles have we ran? When’s the next food stop? Where are you from? Just so we’re clear there are no mile markers in this race, there’s barely anyone to guide you through the twists and turns of the course. You have to depend on your watch and complete strangers. It’s just you and a bunch of people haphazardly making their way to the next stop in hopes that they are still serving bits of grilled cheese, beer and Pringles at the next stop. Trail runners eat the best junk food ever!
If you’re lucky, you might see other runners ahead of you, further on the course. When I get tired of trying to make small talk with strangers and untangle my headphones which have been buried in my back pocket and turn on my water proof I-pod shuffle. Yes, I still own an I-pod because phones are too big and heavy to carry around. The music on the shuffle is all about running and working out. Heavy beats, a quick cadence and some catchy lyrics. Anything can play. I love listening to Christina, Brittany, JT, Madonna, Metallica, Foo’s and The Pixies. My guilty pleasures mixed with hardcore rock and punk keep things interesting. This Shuffle is my savior in this race.
At one point I think I’m in the last part, but damn if there isn’t a forest of mud with obstacles. Why do they do this at the end? It’s hard enough to run through this mire but to add a log pyramid or fence is just cruel. I just need to finish.
Then I see it, the pavement! The volunteers and other finishers saying, “ You can do it. Great job! You’re almost there!” Thank God! I pull out my traditional final sprint. The medal is hung around my neck and a pint glass is placed in my hand. Off I go into the community center to meet my friend, who’s like 15 years younger than me. She’s enjoying beer and French fries when she sees me. We recap the race. In my head I’m thinking I’m never doing that again!
And I know that’s not true, because not even a week after completing this treachery I get the notice. Time to register for next year’s PHUNT Trail race. This Race sells out fast. And what do I do after I tell everyone this was a one and done? I hit the register button and sign up for next year. It’s only $30. Why not?