Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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Good times at the Dirty German 50-miler

Sort of on a whim (as in, registered less than a month in advance), I decided to do the Dirty German Endurance Fest 50-miler in Philadelphia, PA on 5/26. These days, you’re lucky if you can register for a marathon or a half without being sold out three months in advance. One of the pluses of being an ultrarunner is that most ultra races (with notable exceptions like Western States, the Umstead 100, Badwater, and others) don’t sell out early, so you can bide your time before forking over the entry fee.

I have to thank my friend Tommy for planting the idea in my head, because a part of me was questioning the wisdom of running 50 miles in a different state then working the day after (I worked on Memorial Day). Luckily for me, I am still young and full of energy, because I doubt I can pull this off in a few more years!

At 5:30am, my Dashing Whippets teammates Atsede, Sky, Tommy and I piled into a car to drive from NYC to Philly and arrive for packet pickup by 7:30am. Atsede and Sky were running the other race distances offered (25K and 50K), while Tommy and I were running the 50-miler. When we got there, it was like an NYC running party! I saw a bunch of people that I knew, including Sharon, Tony, Jessica, Keila, Joe, Elaine and others! It’s always nice seeing familiar faces–it’s a great way to start a race.

NYC running friends!

NYC running friends!

The best part about this race is that it would be a great test for my fitness in prepping for the next few ultras coming up for me:

1) Back on My Feet 20in24 Lone Ranger Run (24-hr run in July)

2) Great Cranberry Island 50K in July (Maine)

3) Bear 100-miler (Utah), September

No matter how many times I do it, any distance 50 miles or longer makes me really nervous. You can’t fake a 50-miler. Some distances, you can get through with little or no training, but not a 50-miler!

I recently had the good fortune of re-joining Team Refuel, and they helped to provide me with X-1 Women’s Momentum light earphones. X-1 makes waterproof and sweatproof headphones for athletes, and I was excited to try them out!

 I picked up my packet and it included a nice tech shirt (no ads, definitely a plus) and a green drawstring bag. Finishers get a pint glass and an embroidered tech hat post-race.

Me and my X-1 headphones

Me and my X-1 headphones

All the races started at the same time, but the 50-milers tack on an extra 3.5 miles at the beginning. The course is 3 loops of a convenient 25K (15.53 miles) trail around Pennypack Park. and it is a perfect “beginner’s trail” with singletrack, a few minor mini-creek crossings, and some short, steep climbs. The weather was perfect, around 55-60F, and the course was shaded.

I was really excited to see what my result would be, since I felt like I have been in the shape of my life by alternating running with spin classes at SoulCycle. Also, the last time I ran a 50-miler, I was sick with a terrible head cold and the trail I ran was very muddy (the North Face Endurance Challenge DC). I barely made the 13-hour cutoff with a 12:48–a solid effort for a sick person but not ideal.

Tommy and I wished each other luck at the start, and then we were off around 8:10am. It was a bit late, but it was a pretty low-key race and the race director pushed back the start when the bathroom line got long. I saw a friend that I met from the 20in24 race, Maggie, at the start, but then she quickly disappeared in the lead pack.

I enjoyed running with my music for a little while at the beginning, because it got me pumped up and set a good pace. The X-1 headphones were very light and worked well–I barely thought about them because they were so light!

The course felt psychologically challenging because the loop was so long (15.5 miles). It was the longest loop I had ever run, so I had to bide my time and be patient.

Since 50 miles is a very long time to be running, I’ll break it down into the good and bad:

The Good:

-The course was beautiful and very well-marked. The creek crossings were not bad (shoes got a little wet) and added variety to the scenery.

-I got to see my swift friends in the 25K and 50K on some of the out-and-back portions.

-The aid stations were excellent–boiled potatoes, gatorade, potato pancakes, cola oranges, bananas and PB&J.

-Some of the aid station females wore dirndls.

-I hit my 50K road PR at the 50K mark on trail–6:10, dead-on. That gave me a sweet, sweet boost of confidence.

-I saw Atsede, Sky, and Elaine shortly after I finished the second loop. Their cheers gave me extra energy. Joe also helped me refill my water bottle.

-I also hit roughly my 60K  (37.2 mi) road PR (7:05) around the 36 mile mark in the 50-miler, not bad!

– I liked running with a North Face handheld water bottle way better than running with a Camelbak. It forced me to carry less, was quicker to refill, and I was able to switch hands and improve my posture.

-The course was very runnable. This was mostly good (I’m used to trails where you have to hike some portions), but it sucked during later stages of the race because I felt like a cop-out if I walked some easy portions. I forced myself to walk no longer than 1 minute at a time, but I allowed myself walking breaks whenever I needed (just short ones). Proud to say that I ran about 85% of this course. Usually it’s more like 75% for ultras.

Pennypack park

Pennypack park

The Bad:

– The last 2.5 miles feels like a maze. You are weaving in and out of the forest and the finish line does not seem like it’s any closer! It’s dizzying.

– I tripped and fell over a root around mile 31 and landed hard on my knees, hands and iPhone. The case broke, but luckily the iPhone was ok. I dusted myself off and kept going.

– 50 miles is a LONG way to run. A long loop makes it seem even longer.

The Funny:

-At one point, I was really tired and I had never seen a latke/potato pancake at an aid station before. (Keep in mind this was a German-themed race). At the end of the second loop, I pointed to the latke/fried potato and asked a kid volunteer, “Is that a latke?” He said “no, that’s a potato pancake.” He proceeded to point to the bananas and said “And that’s obviously a banana, and that’s obviously an orange…”

That gave me a good laugh!

-A group of tweens/teenage girls were in the park sometime around my 8th hour of running (40 mile mark?), and they said “Stop! Excuse me, how long have you been running?”

Without missing a beat, I said “Oh, about 8 hours.” One girl looked flabbergasted and asked “Aren’t you tired?” I shrugged and said, “a little.” Then I kept going. Thanks for reminding me how tired I was, girls!!

The first two loops, I felt really strong. The last loop was definitely hard and I took more walking breaks. At one point, a horse got spooked in front of us, and the rider told us to stop completely. We lost maybe 3-4 minutes before the horse was able to step out of the way. Not convenient, but necessary.

The volunteers were outstanding. Many of them were there for very long hours, and their smiles kept me going!

Me and Elaine

Me and Elaine

At the end of the second loop, the speedy Tommy Pyon lapped me, and I cheered for him because he was in the lead! I didn’t feel bad being lapped at all, because I knew he was smashing the course. He ended up finishing in 6:55 to win the overall title. I also joke that he’s my good luck charm because my marathon PR remains the Wineglass Marathon 2011 which we ran together.

For the final loop, I passed about 5 people in the last 6 miles, gaining strength when the finish line neared. I knew Atsede, Tommy and Sky were all waiting for me, and I wanted to finish strong. I crossed the finish line in 10:25:32! It was a massive personal best, a 2 hr 23 minute improvement over my last 50-miler on trail! I was so, so happy. I finished 52/75 overall.

Best of all, as soon as I finished, the race director shook my hand and said I finished third in my age group. He handed me a beautiful award, a wooden German weather house, from the Black Forest of Germany! It has been awhile since I won an age group award so I was stoked.

I got my hard-earned finisher’s pint glass and tech hat, and after a few pictures all I wanted to do was sit down. I knew I had to eat, but I had no appetite. Tommy helped grab me a plate of hot food (the finisher food was good, but sadly I had no room in my stomach to enjoy it). My stomach felt bloated from drinking water and gatorade all day, so I had to wait an hour before eating. I took a bite of the hot dog and drank Recoverite, but that was it.

I was thrilled with my finish time because once I broke it down, I was running roughly two marathons  back-to-back around 5hrs 15 min each. That was a great time for me, considering I’m in about 4hr 30min marathon shape at this point. I’ve developed as an ultrarunner and I can’t wait to see how the rest of my ultramarathons stack up. Bring it on!

Thanks so much to Tommy, Sky and Atsede for staying many hours after their own finishes to cheer me on. Despite my advice to them to leave the staging area to grab a burger in the 3+ hours it took me to finish after Tommy, they stayed to make sure they didn’t miss my finish. I have the best running friends ever. We ate at a nearby diner and yes, I refueled with chocolate milk. And ice cream and pasta. Cheers! (Or as the Germans say, Prost!)

50-mile finisher!

50-mile finisher!

My German weather house age-group award

My German weather house age-group award

Atsede, Sky, me and Tommy

Atsede, Sky, me and Tommy

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Brooklyn Half Marathon and the Great GoogaMooga recap

I always enjoy running races in my home borough of Brooklyn, so I was super excited for the Brooklyn Half Marathon presented by New Balance. I have run this race several times now, and it has gone through many course and field size changes. When I heard this year it would be sponsored by New Balance, I knew it would be a big deal and have an enhanced race experience. They increased the field size to a whopping 25,000 people, and every runner would receive a New Balance tech shirt and finisher medal. The biggest change of all was the addition of the Brooklyn Half Pre-Party, a bib pick-up event with a festive atmosphere and even a beer garden!

The Pre-Party was in an awesome space called the Tobacco Warehouse right under the Brooklyn Bridge in the DUMBO neighborhood. New Balance was selling cool gear like biker-type Brooklyn Hats, track jackets and more. There was a DJ, Instagram photo booth, local merchants selling food, and a beer garden. The weather was perfect and there were even fireworks over the Brooklyn Bridge! I really enjoyed seeing my friends and teammates.

Lisa at the Brooklyn Half Pre-Party

Lisa at the Brooklyn Half Pre-Party

Me and Dashing Whippets teammate Tommy at the Brooklyn Half expo

Me and Dashing Whippets teammate Tommy at the Brooklyn Half expo

Fast forward to race day, Saturday, 5/18. I got up early and ran about a mile from my home to the start line near the Brooklyn Museum of Art. It was awesome not to have to rely on public transit that day (especially because the trains are mostly messed up on weekends), and just use my own two legs! I saw my friend Wams at the start line, as well as teammates JWah, Ellen, Henry and Maggie.

The air was cool and crisp, and I was excited about running on my home turf.

I also knew that Shane and I were looking forward to attending the GoogaMooga food festival together after the race, so that was a bonus perk post-race.

The race went off, and I started running at a fast clip. I think the first two miles I was running at 8:20 pace, since I was pacing with another Dashing Whippets team member. I saw some friends cheering at Grand Army Plaza and that added fuel to my fire!

The first loop of Prospect Park was fine, then came the dreaded “Alphabet Avenues” down Ocean Parkway, a 5-mile straightaway that basically went from Ave A to Ave X. I ran my PR at the 2011 Brooklyn Half, and I realized that I was on pace to break my PR, or at least come close.

My legs were hurting, but I wanted to push hard and finish strong on the boardwalk. I ran it in for 1:52:29. It was a PR by 5 seconds! I was ecstatic.

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I met Shane at the finish line and also saw my friends Rick, Lauren and Ben. The family reunion area was a bit of a walk from the finish line, and unfortunately my craving for a Nathan’s hot dog and smoothie went unsatisfied. I heard Nathan’s was closed due to a kitchen fire, and my favorite stand, Denny’s Ice Cream, was closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, many businesses were closed or still hurting months later. Shane and I settled for some Dunkin’ Donuts treats and headed to Prospect Park for the GoogaMooga food festival.

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The Great GoogaMooga

Thanks to my sister, I was able to get a pair of tickets to the Saturday GoogaMooga festival. I entered the lottery for tickets, but wasn’t one of the winners. Glad it still worked out!

This year, it was a three-day festival and last year, it was only two days. Last year, the GoogaMooga had an inauspicious start due to long lines for food, heat, and long lines for alcohol tickets the first day. I went on the second day and volunteered, and I had a great time. I remember having a softshell crab sandwich from Vinegar Hill House and a “Bee Sting” (chili oil and basil) pizza from Roberta’s, and those were my two favorite dishes.

We got in through the gates around noon without any lines or hassle, and we headed to the Lexus tent for a photo opp and some free GoogaMooga trading cards. Those were pretty neat–the cards had chef’s bios on them and a sticker, like an old-fashioned bubblegum prize pack.

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Shane and I met up with my friend Susan and we started visiting the booths.

Here’s what we tried:

1) Brooklyn Soda Works: raspberry basil soda–pretty good.

2) Roberta’s pizza: pepperoni personal pizza–very good, crust was thin and perfectly crispy

3) The Lobster Place: half a lobster. Good and cheap, was served with melted butter

4) M. Wells Dinette: Oysters bolognese with grated white truffle–this was the star of the show and the best dish we had! It was a delicious take on the oyster and the truffle added a richness to it

5) Joe Coffee–cold brew, best coffee ever

6) Bromberg Bros/Blue Ribbon: fried chicken–it was ok, the chicken was a bit dry

7) Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi: soba noodles with kimchi–I liked this

8) Umami Burger: The other star of the show–I had the truffle burger and it was so good! The bun was fluffy, meat was perfectly cooked

9) Melt Bakery: Snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich–this was excellent, tasted cinnamony goodness

10) Baked: brownie–was amazing, very rich

We also indulged in the wine tent–$20 worth of tasting tickets was more than enough. A lot of bartenders were generous with their pours. Overall, even with a little bit of drizzle/rain, the festival was awesome, and the tastings were reasonable from $8 to $12 a plate. The organizers took feedback to heart and organized the booths to minimize waiting (only the Umami burger required a 10-minute wait, there were no lines for anything else). Sadly, Day 3 was cancelled due to terrible weather, so many of my friends didn’t get to go. Hopefully, the festival will be back on next year! It was a fulfilling day of Brooklyn goodness–race + food festival equals a happy runner!

Roberta's pepperoni pizza--perfectly delish

Roberta’s pepperoni pizza–perfectly delish

Umami burger goodness

Umami burger goodness

Oysters bolognese from M.Wells Dinette

Oysters bolognese from M.Wells Dinette