Friday, April 6, 2012

Mountains to Sea Trail 12-Mile Challenge 2012 Race Report


First, I'll go ahead and apologize for the lameness of this race report. Aside from the fact that the Mountians to Sea Trail 12-mile Challenge took place almost a full week ago, I've just not felt especially race-reporty these past few days. And, that's going to be readily apparent to you if you choose to continue reading past the stats section.

stats section

  • Weather Conditions: Nice, sunny on the eastern shores.
  • Finish Time: 1:43:14 (besting last year's time by almost one minute)
  • Placement: 19
  • Shoes worn: Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 (because it rained the night before. And, I figured there'd be mud. And, I just, basically, look for any excuse to wear these shoes)
  • MST 12-mileSwag: One "State Orange" Mountain Hardware tech shirt, featuring the MST 12-mile/50K logo among sponsor logos, and one pint glass, featuring said logo.
  • Number of conversations overheard in which a participant exclaimed that this was his or her first trail race: Five
  • Winning time: 1:22:something
  • Stumbles: One
  • Falls: Zero
  • People met: Two (Hello Garth and Bronwyn!)
  • Favorite dog breeds at the finish line area: Two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, one Aussie, and one Cattle Dog/Border Collie mix


Falls Lake Trail in heavy saturation
This is not a picture from race day. This is a picture of the Falls Lake Trail that I took last summer. My phone's camera did this to the color saturation. It does that sometimes, the phone.

While many of the cool kids in the local running community were running, or supporting, the longest day of running in the Triangle this past 3/31; I was anxious about a smaller race taking place the next day.

I say anxious, because my March running log looked more like my social engagements planner (blank) due to an ankle-tendon thing that kept me out of my running shoes for most of the month. I'd overindulged in the Umstead Marathon on 3/3 and paid the price. My longest run since the marathon was a mere 5.2 miles. And, that kinda hurt.

But, the MST 12-miler was to be my first do-over race, my opportunity to compare a previous performance with current abilities on the same course. And, I'd had high hopes for my performance since registering for the race several months ago. You might even say that it was my goal race for the Spring season.


I woke up thinking about the 100 milers at Umstead. A strong storm that passed through the region during the night had me worried, mostly concerned that the Umstead 100 race directors had to cancel the race due to inclement weather. And, that would have been a majorly disappointing thing for someone who'd pushed themselves to 80-plus miles and fully intended to complete 100 miles before the cut-off time. I mean, if there's anything I'd hate for an ultra runner to suffer besides death, it'd be disappointment due to things beyond her control.

Anyway, I wouldn't find out about the 100's results until after my race.

So, I drive the short distance to the pickup place in front of Kohls department store and wait with a bunch of other fellow runners. It's chilly, but not terribly cold. I am wearing jeans over my shorts, because there's nothing quite like the feeling of damp denim over sweaty legs after a race when you stop at Starbucks for another shot of carbs and that coffee you didn't allow yourself to have before leaving the house.

One of the most delightfully personable people I've ever met hails from Greensboro. We chatted a bit on the ride over. And, that's probably the first time I've ever talked to a complete stranger in a van. She was chewing gum. And, I hadn't bothered to brush my teeth. So most of my responses to her questions were of the tight-lipped, head-tilted-down variety. (And, I'm suddenly recalling Larry Appleton from Perfect Strangers)


I obtained my yellow drop bag from the check-in table, admired the orange shirt, and threw my outerwear into the bag for retrieval after the race. Then, I headed down the road toward the boat ramp for a view of the lake. Water has magnetic properties, you know.

As I was walking toward the shore, the first batch of the 50K runners sped through the starting area. This was a fantastic precedent to our own race. Cheering for other runners helps ease an anxious runner's mind, I think.


And, we're off. The usual stint on a stretch of pavement to allow for positioning ensued, with myself and another runner joking about how tired we were already. Fun stuff.

The trails were as splendid as I remembered them. There were periods of steady pacing behind a group of people followed by a burst of speed as I passed and caught up to the next group. Each fartlek of fast left me wondering if I'd just spent too much. But, I think I managed my energy levels fairly well.

Since I have no pictures from the race, and I do not know of anyone taking pictures during the race, I'll just offer the following image for your trail-inclined expectations. Imagine that's me, there, in front. (It's not)
This is not a picture from the MST 12-mile race
This image has nothing to do with the race I ran on 4/1. It has nothing to do with me or anywhere I've ever been. See it in context on Sarah's Blog of Running, which is my new favorite site.

Before I was ready for it, we'd passed the halfway point. It was Section 2 of the Falls Lake trail. I knew pretty much everything that lay in store for us. So, I felt confident and sped up.

Then I got tired.

Three people passed me. And, I was alone for a while, as if I were on a solo training run. I wanted to catch someone!

A handful of 50K runners ran in the opposite direction on their way back toward their start/finish line. This inspired me. I thought I could surely muster enough speed to push back a few more seconds if these runners could carry themselves so much further today. I passed other 50K runners going my way toward their turnaround point. And, we all encouraged each other.

But, I didn't catch any of those three guys who passed me. I saw one of them when we were several meters from the finish. But, he was too far ahead for me to catch up. This competitive urge forced me to finish strong, though. And, that's something, right?

cookies for all

Yes, when I think about the MST 12-mile Challenge, I think about the cookies. There were a lot of them last year. And, they didn't disappoint in 2012 either. There were at least three kinds of yummy cookies, plus bananans, plus bagels, plus a bunch of other stuff I didn't bother to consider because of all the cookies at hand.

After I'd satiated my cookie appetite, I meandered a bit, sat a spell, and found myself talking with the very speedy Garth; who finished in fourth place, I believe. It was good to meet such a decent fellow with excellent taste in running blogs.

And, as I squeezed myself into the van for the return trip to Kohl's, denim-clad legs protecting other legs from my sweaty skin, I felt good. Sure, I'd hoped that I would finish in less time. But, considering my anxiety over just finishing at all, I was happy with my time.

But, who cares about time when there's an awesome race like the MST 12-miler to run? The volunteers were, once again, stellar beyond belief (thank you!). And, Bull City Running is definitely one of the best race-putter-onner groups in the region.

The van driver and the lady in the passenger seat began discussing pacing and volunteering for the Umstead 100 runners. I listened intently, reminding myself to check the updates as soon as I arrived home. The updates were fantastic.


  1. That report was *not* filled with lameness. Sounds like you had a great time.

    I'm still sad I missed the race and having the chance to chat and run with you (if only briefly, cause you're such a speedster). Am I'm especially upset that I missed the cookies at the finish.

    1. Yeah, don't think I didn't miss you there, Scott! You were tending to a higher calling though, sir.

  2. You're funnier than I think you think you are. Excellent recap. I wish I could be more than one person so I could run every race when there is more than one to be run a single day. Especially when we're in the RDU area, which doesn't happen nearly often enough. Plus, we hardly ever get cookies over here.

    1. Thanks Iris! If it's any consolation, the races I attend around here rarely have a cookie selection of this caliber. The MST 12-miler is an exception.

  3. Thanks for this great race report. Nothing lame about it!

    It was really nice meeting you and getting to talk for a while.



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