Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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TGNY 100: running NYC on foot in 26 hours

On June 21, I had the pleasure of being a part of the “Class of 2014” in The Great New York Running Exposition 100-miler, or the TGNY 100. Ever since I had paced my friend Juergen last year for 26 miles, I was inspired and wanted to run it myself one day. After my DNF at the Bear 100 mile last year in Utah (dropped out at mile 61), a part of me was aching to prove to myself that I could run 100 miles for a second time, to relive that amazing feeling when I finished my first one at the Beast of Burden Summer 100 in 2012. I am an NYC native, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to run through my hometown. The course started in Times Square, went up to Inwood, into the Bronx, through Orchard Beach, through Randall’s Island, Astoria, Alley Pond Park, Kew Gardens, and then down to Broad Channel and Rockaway Beach, Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn), Bensonhurst, the Brooklyn Bridge, and finally through SoHo and ending in Times Square. It was an awesome course.

I had an all-star team of pacers to support my journey–Ken, Tiffany, and Shane. I knew I couldn’t let them down, and Shane had promised that he wouldn’t let me drop out early at the 100K mark. On Tuesday before the race, Ken, Tiffany and I strategized at Num Pang Sandwich Shop. Ken would pace me for miles 36-51 from Astoria to Alley Pond Park, then Tiffany would pace me from mile 51 (Alley Pond Park) until the 100K mark (62 miles) at Forest Park, and finally, Shane would pace me from 100K to the finish line in Times Square. I am so fortunate to have my pacing team behind me, and I know that my race wouldn’t be possible without them.

Race Day (6/21/14)

I had a goal to finish the race within 28 hours, which would be a PR for me (my best time was 28:23) and would give me a cushion before the 30-hour cutoff. I was feeling jittery the night before, picking out my outfit and not getting enough sleep because of my anxiety. I wore my Team Refuel/Got Chocolate Milk jersey and Skechers GoRun Ride 3’s, my most trusty gear and representing my awesome sponsors. Shane and I took the train to the start at 5:00 am to Times Square. Funnily enough, the Solstice Yoga in Times Square was the same day so there were people setting up for that event. I saw a lot of friends milling about pre-race, and my friends Donald and Karen were volunteering! Jackie and her family were there–Jackie’s sister planned it as her bachelorette party of sorts, getting a bunch of friends to crew her and surprising Jackie with a veil! It set the tone for the race to be awesome.

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Photo credit: OhSnapper Photography/Richard Chung

All the runners got tech shirts and glow-in-the-dark wristbands instead of bib numbers. I was “bib number” 10, pretty cool. I had two water bottles, a Nathan running pack stuffed with food, and a printout of the turn-by-turn instructions. I was ready. I used the bathroom at McDonald’s last minute with a bunch of other runners, posed for pics, and then we were off!

Me, Jackie and Robin during the TGNY 100. Photo credit: Ben Ko

Me, Jackie and Robin during the TGNY 100. Photo credit: Ben Ko

Miles 1-25:

The course wound through familiar territory–Central Park and Riverside Drive at the beginning. We saw Mary volunteering and she made us blueberry bread, yum! I ran with Jackie and Robin for about 15 miles, then I felt like my pace was a bit too fast, so I hung back and ran alone for a little bit. Luckily, I found that Scott and Lucy were around my pace, and they were kind enough to direct me to where I needed to go and I ran with them for a while. In the Bronx, we found the place where garbage trucks were “sleeping.” Such a random sight!

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Running through Hunts Point near the Bruckner Expressway was emotional for me. I was a corps member with City Year (Americorps) right when I graduated college, and I served as a mentor/tutor at MS 302 in the South Bronx. I reflected on my year of service and mentally saluted the Bronx in my head for giving me a very meaningful first job.

I was most worried about getting lost for the first 36 miles before my first pacer (Ken) picked me up. Luckily, that didn’t happen. One of the most memorable stretches was running in Pelham Bay Park towards Orchard Beach. It was a beautiful sight–I didn’t get to hang out, but there were awesome indoor public bathrooms! You learn to appreciate the little things when you run a 100!

Lulu and Joe were volunteering at the aid station, which we saw twice at mile 21 and 25. I was so happy to see them! Seriously, thank you to ALL the volunteers. This race wouldn’t be possible without you.

Me, Ken and Yossi around mile 51

Me, Ken and Yossi around mile 51

Miles 26-51:

At mile 26, I was feeling good. Then I remembered I had 74 miles (roughly 3 marathons left to go). Darn. I would say the hardest part was running for a full workday, looking at my watch, and then still knowing that I had a long way to go. My strategy for this race (which I highly recommend) was to run from aid station to aid station, then pacer to pacer (luckily, there were 18 aid stations and 3 amazing pacers waiting for me). I broke the race down into 4 digestible pieces of 25 miles each.

One tough part was in the middle of the day, running up a long uphill bridge from Randall’s Island to Queens. Most New Yorkers don’t know that Randall’s Island exists. The special thing about the TGNY was that I ran through places filled with memories for me. When I was a student at Stuyvesant High School, I ran on the cross country and track teams. They built the shiny Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island my senior year (for our track meets), and I dabbled in the 800m and 2000m steeplechase that year. I wasn’t very fast. I think my 17-year-old self would be proud of the runner I have become.

Couldn't resist snapping a selfie around mile 35.5

Couldn’t resist snapping a selfie around mile 35.5

At the mile 37 aid station, I got a second wind in the form of my dear friend Ken. For those of you who know Ken, he is a ball of energy, just what I needed! I was running slightly behind schedule and reached mile 37 around 1:00pm, an hour behind my very optimistic schedule (I had hoped for 12pm). Ken was glad to see me in one piece, and immediately asked me what I needed. He very kindly brought a battery pack to charge my phone–what a luxury!

I saw Kino at the aid station too, said hello, and I was on my way. I remembered pacing Juergen in this section in Astoria, so I was glad to be in familiar territory. Ken kept me going at a solid pace, but I did shuffle my feet a little. It was a very hot part of the day and I had been awake since 3:00am, so I was pretty tired already. The miles did float past after awhile–Ken kept making sure that I was eating and drinking regularly. We even stopped by a grocery store where he bought me some gum and a juicy peach! The gum would save me much later.

At World’s Fair Marina (mile 41), we saw Bee, Talisa, and Steven’s mom volunteering. I was so happy to see them! They had an amazing, well-stocked aid station. They had onigiri (rice balls) and fresh watermelon for us. I felt like I was in heaven. Thanks guys!

The next 10 miles ran through Flushing and residential streets. The concrete was devilish–it made my feet feel heavy and my turnover was not as good. Although the course is mostly flat, the cement is killer and is one reason why this race can be quite difficult. My second pacer and teammate Tiffany was running into traffic issues commuting to the 51-mile mark, but luckily it looked like we would be right on schedule for her to pick me up for pacing at Alley Pond Park in Queens.

Mile 51, Alley Pond Park. Photo: Ben Ko

Mile 51, Alley Pond Park. Photo: Ben Ko

Tiffany was bringing me my favorite treats: Harmless Harvest Coconut Water, Kind Bars, and ibuprofen! Well, the first two are my favorites–the third one was for emergencies only. It was a relief to be drinking something else other than Nuun or Gatorade soon. See? I told you I have the best pacers and friends!

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When I saw Tiffany, I cracked a big smile. We were wearing matching Oakley shades that we had bought the week before! I had met her recently at the Ragnar Cape Cod, and here she was running 10 miles with me only a month later. Runners are pretty amazing people.

Miles 52-62 (100K)

I was still feeling pretty good, but I knew that the next 10 miles would be difficult. I had to make sure I kept fueling and stay at a conservative pace. We had seen Jackie’s puppy, Yossi, at previous aid stations so that lifted my spirits too! Tiffany and I chatted about past and future races, and it seemed to be just a regular training run in the park.

We ran through Kissena Corridor Park and saw Helen, Rob K. and Yossi! Puppies at aid stations? What a bonus perk for this race!! Me and Tiffany were really excited to see Yossi, can you tell?

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The next stretch in Flushing Meadows Corona Park seemed interminable. I had run in the park many times before, but my muscles felt pretty destroyed by this point so I was running pretty slowly. I stopped to use the bathroom and it was tough to resume running. The 100K mark loomed tantalizingly close, but still so far. We ran by the Kew Gardens F train stop, and Forest Park was just beyond that. I drank coconut water and took some ibuprofen to make my muscles stop protesting. It worked–at least for now. I only take ibuprofen during 100-milers–I generally avoid it otherwise.

Miles 63-90

Finally, with Tiffany’s encouragement, I reached the 100K mark! We were pretty much on target with 14:31 for our split, only 1 minute beyond my hoped-for 100K split. I bid adieu to Tiffany and said hello to Shane, who was my secret weapon pacer for 38 miles. He has finished a 135-miler twice (the Arrowhead 135) so I really had no reason to complain during my 100!

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I sat down for about 20 minutes to pop a blister, eat a few bites of pizza and sweet potato, and change my shirt. I was afraid of sitting down too long and not getting up. I also had a “Mamma Chia” energy snack (similar to applesauce), but that was my whole dinner. Looking back, I should have eaten the entire pizza slice and consumed more calories–I definitely felt an energy deficit later on.

I saw Paula, Cheryl, Michelle, Alison and so many cheery, familiar faces at 100K! It helped boost my spirits and I knew that I wanted to finish and make them proud. Shane and I left the aid station and quickly got back on track.

We were running through the Howard Beach neighborhood–we ran by Vincent’s by the Bay, my friend Rob’s (Rob Petrocelli’s) favorite Italian restaurant. He passed away last year, and I thought of him as I ran by and prayed that he would help guide me to the finish as well (miss you, Rob!). Shane had paced this stretch with Juergen last year and I knew that I wouldn’t get lost under his watch.

He was a brisk pacer, and he didn’t want me to walk much. It was much better to have him there so I wouldn’t slack off. As dusk fell, I felt more and more lethargic, but I had one goal only: to get to the finish. We reached Adabbo Bridge aid station and there was a lone volunteer. We checked in, and as we crossed the bridge, we saw a magnificent pink sunset. There were fishermen hanging around the bridge, and they curiously glanced up at us runners.

Mile 71: We reached the Rockaway Beach aid station, and I slowed down a lot. Shane pretty much commanded me to eat some trail mix, as I complained of nausea and not wanting to eat another granola bar. I really wished I had packed some more savory snacks in my pack, as I didn’t want anything sweet. It was right around here that I started feeling sick. I had to go to a bar in Broad Channel to use their bathroom. Luckily, they didn’t ask questions about my running attire and let me right in. Broad Channel feels like a small, sleepy beach town–it’s quaint! Shane told me not to dawdle too long, as he had set a goal for me to reach mile 75 by midnight.

Mile 75: Jacob Riis Park–there were two lovely volunteers who were originally from London. I remembered I loved hearing their accents, haha. One was a past participant of the TGNY 100, and he offered us cookies and chocolate pudding. It was starting to get a bit chilly, and I wanted to do nothing except lie down. My body was literally going into sleep mode. On the bright side, we reached mile 75 at 11:30pm! I had run roughly 3 marathons in 18.5 hours–definitely something to be happy about.

Mile 80: Around Miles 77-79, Shane and I were running in the pitch dark to Brooklyn. We nearly took a wrong turn, but luckily we found our way after some fumbling around in the dark. I literally couldn’t eat another granola bar without wanting to puke. My skin felt clammy, and I just felt weird in general. I couldn’t tell if I was drinking too much water or not taking in enough salt–possibly both. I saw my friends Annette and Jess, and Jayne and her daughters (Jackie’s family), and told them I felt horrible. I sat down for a few minutes while Jess handed me chicken broth and pretzels. Shane told me to eat some potato chips. I just wanted the terrible feeling to pass!

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The next few miles after 80 seemed the longest ever. Around 2am, we reached the “boring stretch” that Shane had warned me about. The Verrazano Narrows Bridge loomed far off in the distance for a good 5 miles, and we had to run toward it and under it. I stopped to use the bathroom about every 45 minutes because of my digestive issues. It was bad. We see a man with a bike, green lights flashing and loud techno music blaring, all by himself near the bridge. It was comical, but if I was alone I probably would have been scared! Shane and I walk for most of the 5 miles, with a few short runs in between. I felt blisters forming under my feet, and it became super painful to run and walk.

As the sun finally starts to rise, we are approaching the Leif Ericsson park at Mile 90, where my friend/pacer Ken was volunteering. He had gone to a wedding after pacing me, and he promised to wait at the aid station for me in a full suit. I saw him, gave him a quick hug, and told him I was feeling really bad. He gave me a bag of Lay’s cheesy garlic bread chips and it cheered me up a bit after a few bites.

Miles 91-100

My blisters pretty much reached a crisis point by mile 91, so I speedwalked most of the last 10 miles as best as I could. We were running through my beloved Park Slope, Brooklyn, and I couldn’t even enjoy it because I was in so much pain. I was over-hydrated, and I had to stop and use the bathroom every 45 minutes for the last 3 hours. It was torture. To make things worse, I hadn’t eaten anything for about 3 hours because I simply couldn’t eat another gel or granola bar. I felt too full from the water and I only wanted salty foods. My energy levels plummeted. I later found out that I had 5 blisters on my right foot (including on the sole) and 1 on my left, so the pain was very much real. Why are you doing this to me?? My feet seemed to ask…

I thought of all the people who had taken time out of their day to watch me succeed…

I couldn’t let them down. I wouldn’t.

I thought of my first DNF last year at the Bear 100 in Utah, heartbreaking after running 61 miles in the freezing cold at night all by myself…

I thought of how much I had learned from that and what a different challenge this was for me.

I thought of all the 1038915 crazy reasons why I love running and the way it makes me feel alive, how lucky I was that my body is able to do this.

I reached the aid station at Mile 95 at Borough Hall, Brooklyn, and I had a measly 5 miles left to go. I gave the volunteers a big hug, broke down crying on Mary’s shoulder. She told me I was doing great, and gave me something I could finally eat–a packet of applesauce!!

Shane and I reached the Brooklyn Bridge, finally crossing into Manhattan. I was beyond exhausted, but I dug deep and marveled at how empty the bridge was at 6:45am on a Sunday. There were just a handful of people, but otherwise the bridge was ours. He told me to go ahead and took this photo:

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After a stroll through Chinatown and Soho, I picked up my pace a tiny bit, as my blisters allowed. The pain from them was excruciating–I had been running/walking on them for 20 miles. I knew the last 4 miles like the back of my hand, and I was even going to run past my office! Shane looks at me with a grin and said–“I think you’re going to run a personal best!”

I didn’t want to jinx it, so I just said “Maybe.”

We reach Union Square, and it’s just a mile up Flatiron and to the finish line at 44th and Broadway. There are some pedestrians by now, 7:30am. I thought of how I asked my mom to wait for me at 9am. It occurred to me that I might even finish before she gets there. I run by the Broadway Bites food festival tents set up in Greeley Square, and I distinctly think about them being in my way! I have to run on the sidewalk instead. I am counting down the individual blocks at this point. The flashing lights of Times Square twinkle at me in the distance.

I run by the Ruby Tuesday, under some ugly scaffolding, and I look up at 42nd and Broadway. I hear clapping!

The finish line was 2 blocks sooner than I had thought–last year it was at 44th Street. I smile and run towards my friends and fellow runners who had gathered at the finish.

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Photo credit: Atsede Aemro Selassie

I see Phil, the race director, standing at the finish. He gives me a big hug and hands me the finisher buckle. I thank him and give Shane a hug for running 38 miles with me. I let all the emotions wash over me, and I cry because I can finally stop running!

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Words can’t describe how it feels to finish a 100 miler. It is painful, it is crazy, and it’s pure bliss once you are finally done. I had finished in a time of 26:36:10, a 1 hour and 47 minute improvement from my previous best time! It has been an amazing run.

Lisa’s TGNY 100 stats:

Time: 26:36:10,  Place: 29/35 overall, 9th female

Thank you to everyone who has helped me in this journey–Shane, Tiffany, Ken, all the volunteers, and the co-race directors Phil and Trishul. Thanks to my mom who waited for me at the finish! Also, congratulations to my fellow runners–you are all inspiring.

Thank you to my co-workers and friends who sent me messages of support. It meant the world to me! Now that I am rested and recovered, I can’t wait until my next adventure. I love you, New York!

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A “Bear” of a time at the Bear 100 (part 1)

A few weeks ago, I had the craziest and most memorable adventure of my life running the Bear 100 in Utah. It’s a grueling, 100-mile trail run from Logan, UT to Fish Haven, ID. The race was billed as “36 hours of Indian summer,” with stunning views of pine trees, golden aspen and red maples. My previous 100-miler, the Beast of Burden Summer 100 (you can read the race report here), was a flat, out-and-back course with punishing heat, and I was ready to step up my game. I knew there was a possibility that I wouldn’t finish such a crazy mountain race, but having run road races for 10 years, I was looking for a new challenge. I was really proud of my spotless record–out of 175 road races I have run since 2003 (in distances ranging from 1 mile to 100 miles), I had finished every single one. I always did say, if I were to DNF (do not finish) a race, I would do so in epic fashion!

My story begins on Wednesday, 9/25, when Shane and I boarded our JetBlue flight from JFK to Salt Lake City. When I arrived at Terminal 5, I was delighted to see that a Baked by Melissa cupcake shop had opened! I love their cupcakes, and I always use a marathon or ultramarathon as an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth. I bought a few cupcakes to throw in my purse, and it got me in a happy mood as I got ready for our five-hour flight.

It was a relaxing, uneventful flight, and we arrived late evening. I was so excited to be in Utah! The next morning, we went to Alchemy Coffee in Salt Lake City and enjoyed some pumpkin spice lattes. What can be better than that! It was a nice, cozy cafe and the coffee helped me wake up. I knew that we would have limited energy to sightsee after the race, so we also hit up RubySnap cookies, which had rave reviews on Yelp. The decor was very 50’s and kitschy. They give generous samples (half a cookie!) so we tried some amazing flavors, including a seasonal one with strawberries and a goat cheese cream on top. I ended up getting a 4-pack with the following flavors: Audrey (almond dough with almonds, cranberries and white chocolate), Penelope (peanut butter dipped in chocolate), and Lilly (lemon sugar cookie with lemon glaze and lemonheads). If you’re in Salt Lake City, you must go to RubySnap!

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The Penelope cookie

The Penelope cookie

Me and Shane at the pre-race meeting in Amalga Park, UT

Me and Shane at the pre-race meeting in Amalga Park, UT

We also went to the State Capitol building, saw the outside of the massive Mormon temple (you must belong to the Mormon church to enter), bought some souvenirs, and treated my pacer (for blog purposes I will call her C.) to lunch and talked race strategy. We agreed that she would pick me up at the Franklin Trailhead aid station at Mile 61, around 2am early Saturday morning. It was a very busy afternoon of sightseeing and coordinating logistics!

Lisa at the Utah State Capitol

Lisa at the Utah State Capitol

At 3:45pm, we arrived at the pre-race meeting at Sugar Park in Amalga, UT. It was very chilly and drizzling rain, and the temperature felt like low 50’s. All the Bear 100 runners were huddled under the wooden pavilion as we awaited final race instructions from the race director, Leland Barker. Typically, 100-mile races take days of preparation just for the race–there is usually a pre-race meeting, a place to drop off your drop bags (participant-provided bags) so they can be placed on the course, and bib pickup.

The goody bag had a nice maroon tech shirt with a map of the course elevation on the back and a packet of Hammer Nutrition Recoverite. They sold some merchandise at Leland’s (the race director) trout farm up the road. It was funny–it’s such an intimate race (only 300 participants) that he had us put our drop bags on the lawn and he sold merchandise in his living room! I bought a big red fleece jacket with the race logo.

Shane and I took about 1 hour to assemble our drop bags. There were 13 aid stations along the course, and 10 of them had drop bags. It was important to strategize what your needs were at what point of the course. For example, you needed a headlamp in your drop bag a few miles before darkness set in, and you had to anticipate what foods/gels/liquids/caffeine boosts you wanted at certain miles!

Finally, once our drop bags were done, we could eat dinner! I chose Jack’s Wood-fired Oven in Logan, as their pizza looked pretty legit. I ordered the tomato basil soup and the “Pig and the Peach” pizza. It was prosciutto with thyme, honey, and chipotle peach dressing. It was delicious! It was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had while traveling. Finally, it was bedtime around 10pm to prepare for our 4:30am wakeup call (race started 6am). Luckily, the start line was only 10 minutes away by car!

Jack's Wood=fired oven pizza

Jack’s Wood-fired oven pizza

Bear 100 Race Day, 9/27/13

This was it. This was the day I had been training for the past 8 months. I was ready to rock and roll!

Shane and I ate a light breakfast at our hotel, then we got to the start at 5:30am with plenty of time to spare. There was no official start line banner, just a tent set up for the volunteers and runner check-in and a bunch of runners clustered together in a parking lot.

I got the chance to meet elite ultrarunner Karl Meltzer. He’s a pretty awesome guy–he has the current record for most 100-mile wins (35) and was a past champion of the Bear 100. We chatted a bit and his last minute advice was to “be patient.” And of course, runner geek I am, I got my photo with him. Thanks for the advice, Karl!

It was pretty dark and chilly, and I offered Shane my sweatshirt because he had packed all his jackets in his drop bags. I’m happy to share! At 6am, there wasn’t really a start horn–a bunch of people started moving, and off we went into the darkness!

Miles 1-10

I was feeling pumped, and I knew to start very conservatively because there was a 4,000 ft climb in the first 5 miles, and the first 10 miles were almost completely uphill. It was singletrack, so runners didn’t really have room to spread out until after 4-5 miles. The views as we climbed higher were stunning. I think I was one of the few “city” girls that gaped and took pictures while climbing. I took this race seriously, but I also wanted pictures to make sure I had a little bit of fun along with the torturous climbing! I also noticed a lot of people had trekking poles, and thought about getting some the next time I go on a mountain adventure. The first 5 miles were very, very tough, but I felt well-prepared. The one hard thing i didn’t expect was the snow. There was a decent amount of snow, and the chilly air sometimes made it hard to breathe. Luckily, I didn’t feel sick from the altitude…yet.

Me and elite ultrarunner Karl Meltzer

Me and elite ultrarunner Karl Meltzer

Me and Shane at the Bear 100 start

Me and Shane at the Bear 100 start

I made sure to keep hydrating and eating the entire time. People ask me if I ever get bored during an ultra, and the answer is no. There is so much to do! You have to keep your eyes focused on the ground so you don’t trip, remember to eat, remember to drink, and look for trail markers. Plus, there is scenery to be enjoyed and photos to take. How could I possibly be bored??

Me near the top of Logan Peak

Me near the top of Logan Peak

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I reached the Logan Peak aid station and was so glad to have made it to mile 10. One of the tough things about the Bear 100 is that there is usually 7-10 miles between aid stations, which means that you have to carry adequate water and supplies in between, plus it can be very scary at night when there’s no one around until the next aid station.

Miles 11-20

I was still enjoying myself very much during the race. However, miles 11-20 were some of the coldest times–there was snow gently falling on the trail, and since we were high up on the mountain it was windy. I had to be very careful of my footing so that I didn’t slip too much on the snow. My spirits were still high because it was afternoon and I was wide awake. I was having a blast! The descent into one of the lower points, Leatham Hollow, was gorgeous. It was very runnable trail and there were pine needles to cushion my footsteps. I made sure to thank all the volunteers I saw! I made it through one of the hardest climbs and descents and I was feeling pretty darn good.

What happens when darkness falls? Race report to be continued…stay tuned!


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Beast of Burden Summer 100, Marathon #28, first 100! (8/18/12)

Just a week ago, I was on my way up to Lockport, NY, nervous for my very first attempt at the 100-mile distance. Now, I can proudly say that I achieved my goal, finishing the Beast of Burden Summer 100 in 28:23:48. However, it was not as simple as getting from Point A to Point B. It required about eight months of training and running three ultramarathons in two months to give me the confidence to toe the starting line with a whole bunch of hardcore ultrarunners. I was so inspired in recent weeks by my friends’ finishes in the IronMan NYC US Championships (Warren, Steve and Leong) and sub-24 hour 100 mile runs (Otto and Michelle) that I wanted to bring my A-game on race day.

On Friday, I took a day off from work to take the 8-hour bus trip from NYC to Buffalo. Marco’s friends Jim and Beth hosted us in their beautiful home a short drive from the race’s start. Jim designed and built the home himself! I could feel the good vibes around this weekend already. Jim is an ultrarunner too, and both him and Beth volunteered for this year’s race. FYI—this race has the best volunteers and aid stations ever. You’ll see why in a moment. We had an informal carbo-loading meet up with other runners at DeFlippo’s, where I had their spaghetti and meatballs and garlic cheesy bread. Can’t go wrong with that!

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Marathon Maniacs and me at the start line.

I had a good night’s sleep and at 7:00am I was up preparing for the 10:00am race start. Since I wasn’t planning to sleep during the race, I needed all the rest that I could get! There was a lot to prep—organizing my two drop bags with favorite foods, Nuun, Gatorade, sunscreen, Vaseline, etc. for availability at the start/finish and the 12.5 mile turnaround point.  I picked up my goody bag and discovered it had awesome stuff–a sling backpack, a full-size jar of almond butter, a headlamp, lip balm, ankle light, and some samples. The lights will come in handy for future ultramarathons and Ragnar Relays! The course was 4 loops of a 25-mile out and back course along the Erie Canal towpath. The surface was crushed limestone and you had views of the water the whole time.

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Here’s the beautiful Erie Canal towpath. Although the pic doesn’t show it, it was sunny and shade-free the whole way. We lucked out with the weather–76F the first day and about 80F the next day.

I said hi to Carol at the start, and was happy to see Benny was a pacer. Good to see a friendly face in these parts. I also got to say hello to Valmir Nunes, the Brazilian ultramarathon phenom who is a world-class runner. We conversed a bit–he understands some English and my Spanish and I understand some of his Portuguese, lol. He was very nice. Turns out my coworker knows his daughter too–what a small world! Since the race is so long, I figured it’s best told in bullet points and feelings by loop. Brace yourself.

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Ahh, the first loop. Those were the happy times. (Photo credit: Ben Tam)

The first loop (Miles 1-25):

-My body was feeling good, since this was just a marathon, right?

-I was cheering on each runner I saw, including the 50-milers.

– Still noticing how beautiful the scenery was. There was NO shade on the course though. It was 76F but felt like 80F.

-Aid stations were stocked with sno-cones (from a legit Sno Cone Machine), grilled cheese sandwiches, Heed, Hammer gels, and watermelon slices. Aid Station 1 was at Gasport, mile 7, and the second Aid Station was at Middleport at the 12.5 mile turnaround. Station #2 was staffed by Beth (nice to see a familiar face!), and there were Little Debbie snacks like Pecan spins and zebra cakes. My favorites were the frozen watermelon and strawberry kebabs. Yummy!

-Indoor bathrooms at Mile 12.5. Amazing!

– Ran a bit with my friend Jackie O. and her friend Caroline.

– My 25-mile split was about 5:15. It was a little faster than 5:30, my planned split.

The second loop (Miles 26-50):

          I was starting to settle into a rhythm, running 25 minutes and taking 5-minute walking breaks, or running 15 minutes and taking 2-minute walking breaks when I was particularly tired. I ran around a 11:30-12:00 easy conversation pace.

          Halfway into this loop I started running with a Marathon Maniac named Andy and my friend Marco. We started playing word/mental games to pass the time, like “First World Problems.”

– about mile 40, bugs started coming out en masse (mayflies, moth-like things, gnats galore). Couldn’t talk much anymore because we needed to keep our mouths shut.

– It started to get dark. Good thing we had our headlamps (Marco and Andy) and flashlight (me).

– I ran a personal best for 50 miles, about 12:10! My previous personal best was 12:44 for a 50-miler on road.

– I had Jim (our host and volunteer extraordinaire) take this photo of me at mile 50 when I reached the aid station. He shook his head in disbelief at my energy. I was feeling GOOD.

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Halfway done and feeling good! PR for 50 miles! 

Third Loop, miles 51-75. Utter darkness.

– It was so dark that I couldn’t see anything beyond my headlamp, except stars.

– Marco patiently walked with me. We walked most of the loop, not gonna lie.

– Stomach issues at mile 55. Uh-oh. Time to lay off the GUs. They’re not made to sit in your stomach beyond a marathon. I was taking one an hour, no wonder I felt sick.

– We reach Gasport at mile 57 where I got warm pizza and food. And warm lentil soup. It was the best thing I ever tasted.

– At the turnaround point, I really needed a stretch-out massage because my hip was stiffening up. It was an awful feeling. I could barely run. The massage therapist stretched me out and it helped a little.

– I needed any kind of motivation at this point. This was the lowest I had been all day. We were in the aid station for almost 15 minutes due to our food break and stretching. Marco very kindly waited for me.

– At mile 63, Marco and I started feeling SUPER tired. It was about 2am at this point. We sang Disney songs loudly to keep ourselves awake. “Tale as old as time…true as it can be…la la la la la…” It was silly but it lifted my spirits so much. I remembered feeling triumphant that all the knowledge and lyrics of Disney songs I stored away came in handy in a life-or-death situation. (okay…it wasn’t life or death…but it was about survival!)

– After about 20minutes of Disney songs, we were silent, and then I started blanking out/sleepwalking. It was so scary. I would have no idea how long I blanked out for. This happened to Marco at the same time. Not good. We didn’t fall into the canal at least.

– Cold. Temperature at night was probably 55F, felt colder.

– We saw a couple of frogs. Marco didn’t like frogs. This was my chance to be the knight in shining armor instead of the damsel in distress.

– I started hallucinating, seeing things in the dirt like monster-shaped creatures. I wasn’t scared because I knew it wasn’t real. It was a bizarre feeling though.

– I was shivering ever since the sun set. I just had a thin SmartWool long-sleeve shirt on. At Gasport I borrowed a sweatshirt. It helped, even though it was bulky. I was grateful.

– Our goal was to not fall into the canal at this point. We walked real slow. The third loop took maybe 9 hours, or close to it. Major, major props to Marco for sticking by me to make sure bears didn’t come out of the woods.

– Sun finally started to come up around 5:00-5:15, when we almost reached the last two miles. Marco gave me a pep talk and told me that I needed to run with it, that we only had NINE hours left before the 4pm (30 hour cutoff). He knew I wouldn’t fail but I needed to pick up the pace. I ran the last mile into the aid station at the finish. I told Marco to take off and not worry about me, that I was a good “closer.” The middle miles suck but I can make up ground at the end.

Final lap, Miles 76-100, Run Lisa Run!!

– I reached the aid station about 6:45am, stuffed some food in my mouth, and got out of there as fast as my legs could possibly carry me (which wasn’t fast by normal standards).

– No time to take pictures or think of ANYTHING except the growing pain in my hip flexor. This could potentially end my race. I started to breathe deeply so I wouldn’t panic.

– I caught up to Andy around mile 76. We started chatting. I told him I had a bad hip and he told me he had awful blisters. We tried not to grimace too much.

– We tried different strategies, running for 30 steps, running to the next sign post, speed walking, anything to bring our legs closer to the finish.

– When we reached Gasport, I asked for ibuprofen. I was in a lot of pain. I never took ibuprofen during a race before and hoped that it wouldn’t upset my stomach. I downed a Little Debbie Snack cake and a banana and I was on my way.

-At mile 83 the ibuprofen starts working. Andy and I keep speedwalking together until about mile 86. I told him I had to take off or I might not finish if the pain got worse. He totally understood and told me to go.

– The sun is really hot at this point. It felt like 80F. I could feel my nose and shoulders start to burn. No shade anywhere.

-I’m starting to see runners heading for home. “Someday that will be me,” I think. It felt like FOREVER until we reached mile 88, the turnaround point. Longest few miles ever. I jam some headphones in my ears and it almost makes the pain go away.

– I reach the Middleport aid station the last time, thank the wonderful volunteers again, and then turn around for home. I am almost free!

-I reach the Gasport station again, mile 93. I mouth a silent prayer that I am so so close to being done. I eat a tiny bit of food but don’t want anything to upset my stomach.

– Several minutes after I leave the station, “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon comes on my iPod, and I start crying. I KNOW I’m going to finish at this point. The enormity of it all hits me, with 3 hours left on the clock and less than 7 miles to go. No matter how much pain I am in, I can crawl to the finish line if needed.

– The last few miles are absolutely brutal. Every bridge and house looks the same, and the finish line doesn’t seem any closer!

– Finally, I spot the marina where we have almost 2 miles left until the finish. Marco waves and shouts at me from across the water. My spirits pick up a bit.

– Two boats pass and the bridge goes up, darn! Luckily, by the time I make it to the bridge it is down again for pedestrians. I am doing a brisk run at this point, with minimal walking. The last mile, I reflect on everything that happened in the last 28 hours. I almost start to cry again, but then I remember that I don’t want to be a babbling mess when I cross!

– The finish line is within sight. I see the numbers–I’m finishing under 28:30!! I hear cowbells and cheering.

– I cross in 28:23:48. Best moment ever, money can’t buy.Image

Photo credit: Beth Pease

I see Rick, Jim, Beth, Shannon, Valmir (the champion), Marco and many friendly faces cheering for me. I am smiling from ear to ear, all pain forgotten. I take a photo with Sam Pasceri, the race director, and shake his hand as he gives me the silver buckle. Feeling the weight of the prize in my hand is amazing.

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Me and Sam Pasceri with The Buckle.

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Shannon, myself, and Valmir, the champion. He set a course record of 14:58 and cheered for all the runners afterwards! He stayed until the last person finished in 29:50. Major props.

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Never have I ever worked so hard for a finisher award!

It was awesome seeing Rick before he had to head to the airport. Shannon made sure I elevated my feet on a box and got some ice for me. Everyone was asking me what I needed. I didn’t really need much–I had my pride and my buckle, what else could I possibly ask for?

Thanks SO much to the race volunteers, to Jim and Beth for hosting us, and to Sam P and his family for putting on a stellar event. Thanks to Valmir and everyone who cheered at the finish. Most of all, thanks to Marco for sticking by me for 30 plus miles, making sure I didn’t lose sight of the goal and keeping me safe. Thanks to Maniac Andy for keeping me company for 15 plus miles. Thanks to all my friends and teammates for believing in me!

Epilogue:

Post-race, Jim and Beth took me to Duff’s Famous Wings in Buffalo. We got the medium spicy wings, gravy fries and root beer, and it was the perfect post race meal. I could barely walk the first few hours after the race, but then I took a bus and taxi home, stayed in bed and ate my meals, and then I was fine. Monday was especially tough (could barely use the stairs at home), but I was glad to take the day off. I took the 10pm bus that left Buffalo and got back to NYC at 6:15am. I didn’t care, I just took my time and tried to stay relaxed the whole day, after all I put my body through!

Would I do another 100 miler? Ask me in a few months!