Race Recap: Mountains to Sea 12M

I raced the Mountains-to-Sea 12M on April 9. The MST is a really unique trail - it's 1,175 miles and runs from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. The trail race benefits the Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail, which works to build and maintain the trail. The MST is a wonderful, runnable single track trail - not too steep, not too rocky, and not so narrow that you can't pass when you need to. The course runs along Falls Lake and loops back and forth over various streams and rivers without a lot of elevation change. Plus, April in North Carolina is SO nice for trail running - it's warm without being oppressive, and the trees are starting to leaf in, providing some shade. Can't recommend it enough! The short summary is: I was slow but had a wonderful time. Feeling very psyched about "real" training again.

Goals

None - The last time I ran this race, I was just a few weeks away from setting my marathon PR at the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon. This year, my expectations were modest. My longest run before this race was just 10 miles. 

Pre-race

Work/life factors converged and so, while I did manage to get a couple Gus for the race, I forgot about pre-race breakfast and made do with Cheerios and plain yogurt and 1/4 of a banana (all that was left) -- and NO coffee. Thankfully, once I arrived in the shopping plaza where we were waiting for the race shuttle, I ducked into a Starbucks for a coffee and one of their bazillion calorie breakfast breads, which I ate on the shuttle on the way to the start.

It was about 39 at the start but quickly warmed up to the high 50s. I wore my Nike crops with a short sleeve shirt and kept a long sleeve shirt on until just before the start. Their drop bag system made it easy to keep extra clothes on until the last possible second.

The race

I felt fantastic at the start and enormously grateful to be running without any back pain! I was nervous for the first few miles -- the 10 miler I had done two weeks ago took me two whole hours (!!!!) and I was worried about being LAST or wanting to drop out but not being able to (since it's a point-to-point course). But after the 3 or 4 mile mark I settled in. I noticed to my relief that I wasn't having any back pain like I did at Little River.

No falls, though at one point I wrenched my ankle pretty hard, but after a few minutes it felt fine again. I finished in 2:20 something, an 11+ min/mile pace. Woah. I'm not as fast as I used to be (yet) but things are starting to click. Pain is gone - check. I'm logging more miles finally - check. Speed will come. 

Next up

  • I need a fresh pair of shoes -- I stay a version behind (to save $), so I'm excited to try the "new" Saucony Guide 9s.
  • I'm putting together a rough plan for the next few weeks to keep building up mileage to a consistent 20+ mpw.  I also need to re-start my PT exercises I was given -- I've completely fallen off of doing them. 
  • I also want to get a date on the calendar for a goal half and then get my training plan going! 

Life/Race plans

I'm 10 months into parenting and I'm finally starting to feel like my old energetic self again. It seems like I say this every month -- but each month really does get easier. The big thing that changed: My baby started sleeping! through! the! night! To think that I now have enough energy to run around in circles a few times before bed -- I thought that day might never come!

Running/injury update:

After the awful back pain before/during/after the Little River 7k, I reached out to a physical therapist who specializes in runners and postpartum women. PT went very well and I "graduated" last week. I’ve learned so much about getting back into shape after childbirth; I just wish I had had all of this info a year ago! Along with regular birth classes, I would have loved a class for runners/active people in general about what to do during pregnancy to set myself up for the best possible recovery/re-entry to running. I ran in my first trimester, then walked and did yoga, but apparently there are much better things I could have been doing. Immediately after birth, I was in a rush to get out there and run again, but I would have been far better off had I spent a few weeks doing some simple strength exercises instead.

My PT explained how carrying a child changes a person's posture, flexibility, and core strength. Essentially (and forgive me if I mess any of this up, I am repeating what I remember), all of these things interact together: Increased flexibility + weaker core/back muscles combined with ligaments which stretch to accommodate the baby. After birth, the core & back muscles must get stronger to stabilize and support these permanently-stretched-out ligaments. Weakness in my core and back meant that these muscles couldn't stabilize my sciatica.

The good news is that simple strength training was able to solve these issues. She gave me a number of exercises for my back, core, IT band, hips, everything. I loathe strength training, but if I want to be a strong runner again, it's kinda what I gotta do.

For the past few weeks I've been running completely painfree, without even a twinge in my back. In early March I had my best postpartum run to date – 7 totally ecstatic miles. I feel like I’ve turned a corner in my new mama-hood. In addition to the sleeping, which has been huge, we've also weaned, and the back-to-back bouts of sickness are over. We are in a period that feels easy and joyful. Since daylight savings, it seems like I found an extra hour in my days. I feel I'm really in a groove with work, motherhood, marriage, running, friends, community stuff, etc. Yesterday, I ran 10 miles. They were slow, but I don't care. The speed will come later. It feels so good to log some real distance again!

I am in the mood to throw some goals on the table.

Goals

Short-term: I registered for the Mountains to Sea Trail 12-miler a few months ago when I was feeling reckless and optimistic. It’s in just two weeks. I raced MST back in 2014 and loved the course. I'm not going to be fast, obviously, but it'll be really beautiful, and it will force me to run 12 miles!

Summer and beyond: I want to beat my half marathon PR this year. My half PR is 1:50 (8:23 pace), from the very hilly City of Oaks Half Marathon in 2014. I know I can do better, and in fact I have an unofficial half PR from the Tobacco Road Marathon. I ran the first half of that race in 1:48 (8:14 pace).

It might seem a little too ambitious to try to take down this PR, but I love the idea of taking on a big scary goal. My idea is to build up a running base through June or so, then begin dedicated half marathon training with the Historic Hillsborough Half on 10/1 as my goal race.

The Hillsborough Half before is in its second year, so there isn't much information about it online. My only concern is that it might be super hilly. But it's so early in the fall that if I miss my goal I could always try again in late October/November.

Anyway, that's the latest with me. I'll be documenting my training here -- probably not every week, but as often as I can!