OVERDUE: MST 50K Race Report

The MST 50K was at the end of March, enough time lapsing that the details are becoming fuzzy—which might bring some refreshing clarity and conciseness to my overly long race reports. Here’s what I remember:

DISTANCE UPGRADE
I was originally signed for the 12 miler, which I ran last year, but after finishing Uwharrie 20 (another race report that alas, will not be written) without any significant problems, I decided it was time to cross off the DNF from 2013 and finish this 50K. My only regret was missing out on running with some of my favorite running buddies who were running the 12 miler.

TRAINING (OR NOT)
I had to make the distance switch a month before the race. February turned out to be the nastiest month here in Raleigh, with nearly 2 weeks of school out for snow and ice as well as the coldest day on record. So my training wasn’t all that great, but then again, it never is, so I’ve mostly stopped worrying about it. Perfect training will never be my top priority, so I’ll just thrash out there with the weekend warriors and have a good time. I win every time!

coldest day

Feb. 19, 2015 was the coldest day on record in NC. Overnight lows were 12 and the high that day was 23. I put sheet metal screws in an old pair of trail shoes and had a memorable 12 mile run on the MST in the deep silence of winter.

TIME GOALS
This was my second 50K. The first was Pilot Mountain to Hanging Rock last fall, a more technical point-to-point trail race with a lot more climbing. I finished that race in 6:15 and felt great. Despite my lackluster training (see above) I thought I could break 6 hours on an easier course.

PACING
The Falls Lake section of the MST is deceptively difficult. It lulls you into a contented rhythm of short ups and downs as you run from Blue Jay Point County Park to the Falls Lake Dam, without any long climbs that force you to walk. This is how I ran the first half without any walking, arriving at the dam in 2:44, with a glance at my watch and an “uh-oh” in my head. Not that you could tell—I was having a great time. I dropped a layer and headed back out quickly, where I saw Jon, Will and Joanna finishing the 12, but missed Steve and Danny who must have been right behind me.

One friend said I looked like a kid on Christmas morning. I love a day on the trails so much, and it was great to see Karla and Amanda at the turnaround!

One friend said I looked like a kid on Christmas morning. I love a day on the trails so much, and it was great to see Karla and Amanda at the turnaround! Photo by Amanda.

My big brothers (from other mothers) nearly caught me at the dam, but I escaped before they arrived.

My brothers (from other mothers) nearly caught me at the dam, but I took off before they arrived. What is the Grinch wearing?! Photo by Amanda.

Complacency on the way out meant chatting and running too fast in the company of other runners. This is what makes trail races great, though. The downside was that I felt crummy after the turnaround. Fortunately Will’s brother John caught up with me and we ran together for a couple of miles, but not before being passed by several women. I take pride in running a strong back half, so I was crabby that I couldn’t run faster.

FINISH LINE EXCITEMENT
Whoever thinks that mid-pack finishers aren’t competitive, or that 50K finishes are as boring and painful to watch as jury selection, should have witnessed the end this race. I started feeling better about five miles out from the finish and picked up my pace, reeling in a few people along the way. One woman, Katie, whom I’d enjoyed running with near the beginning, was well ahead of me at the turnaround. I was surprised to see her again as she lamented that she should have reigned in her pace and was cooked. “Well, we’re only a couple of miles out—let’s get this done” I said, and she tucked in behind me, pushing me to run harder and harder as we approached the finish. I could see we were rapidly closing the gap with the two women ahead of us but wasn’t sure if we had enough distance left to catch them.

Incredibly, the 4th through 7th place women finished within 30 seconds of each other. I was disappointed to be at the back of that group, 7th female of 23. Katie sprinted by me as we headed into the final stretch, nearly catching the woman in front of her. Argh, I hated being out-sprinted! Later, I saw that a) she was in her 20s, and b) I had pulled off a great 50K PR with 5:46. So I got over it.

Exciting finish for a 50K! You can just see my orange shirt behind another woman and Katie. I wanted to catch them BAD!

Exciting finish for a 50K! You can just see my orange shirt behind another woman and Katie, and we were hauling butt.

Whew! Glad that's done.

Whew!

PEEPS RIDE AGAIN
Once again, I was proud of our Peep team results! Our team (where they count your best-5 finishes by gender) placed 3rd behind the Carolina Godiva Track Club and the TrailHeads. Peeps rock!

THANKS
I was thrilled to see Andrew and the boys cheering me at the finish, along with my friend Steve. The finish line area was an open and grassy field, with lots of great food and a relaxed atmosphere to chill out and trade race stories. Thanks to Bull City Running for yet another stellar trail race!

Me and my best pal, who's holding my sweaty gear.

Me and my best pal, who’s nice enough to hold my sweaty gear. Great day on the trails! Photo by Steve.

Adventures in Bike Commuting: Week 3 and beyond

Week 3 of bike commuting went well. Instead of making up details I can’t remember, I’ll just say that spring had sprung, more people were out on the greenway, and I had a few close calls. One handy piece of gear is my bike bell—I ring it well behind pedestrians, in the hopes of a) alerting them that I’m passing without scaring them, and b) not being overly obnoxious. It seems to work well.

I did have a toddler dart out right in front of me, but in screeching to a halt to miss him, and pausing for some well-timed Lamaze breathing exercises, I spotted a few bloodroot flowers in an unlikely place. I’ll chalk that up to a win–and I didn’t hit the kid, either. Now for some pictures of my commute in full spring mode, so you can see that this bike commuting thing has some great benefits.

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First, a shout-out to my vintage 1993 bike panniers that took me 1400 miles in Europe. 

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Novara by REI. LOVE using them again!

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Gear. I need a checklist because I always forget something.

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Memorial park to a WWII vet on the House Creek Greenway behind Crabtree Valley Mall.

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Still chilly back in March, but the running windbreaker with a vest and a buff worked well.

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Bloodroots (Sanguinaria canadensis) I would have missed had I not been stopping abruptly to avoid a collision with a cute toddler who ran out in front of me. Notice the single, Matisse-esque leaf. It’s the only species in its genus and only blooms for a week or so in early spring.

I made it 3 weeks before abruptly stopping my experiment after a week of rain, followed by a week of work travel, followed by the end of semester insanity, followed by more work travel.

I know. I’m disappointed too. It came down to time and I didn’t seem to have any to spare. I do at least think, constantly, about riding my bike into work every single time I drive in. Instead of zoning out on the Beltline, I look for the places where you can see the greenway to see if others were out riding. On nice days, I feel a pang of jealousy when I spot fellow bike commuters.

I work from home much of the summer, since all my students are working doing internships and taking my class remotely, but I do hope to get back in the swing now that I have less time pressure.

In the meantime, it was a good way to break back into riding bikes as I readied myself for the next challenge, the 160 mile Tour de Cure.

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Ready to head to work. This has been a sturdy bike for commuting.

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One more shot of bloodroot–it is, after all, so tiny and delicate, and long gone now. The commute by bike teaches me to see and savor these kinds of small delights, something we all need. I hope to be back at it soon.