Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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Virgin London Marathon part 2

May is off to a running start…I started a brand-new job that I’m really excited about, and I’ve had a ton of running adventures in the past month. I have been extremely fortunate the past two years to have been able to run races all over the world and in various states: Tokyo, Vancouver, California, Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Hawaii and more. I am capping it off with London as my last big hurrah before buckling down and focusing on career and more local races.

So I went to sleep on the eve of the London Marathon (4/20) around 11:30pm. I stayed at the Palmer’s Lodge in Swiss Cottage (a great hostel, by the way), and it was great because I stayed there in 2008. It was cool to return to a place I stayed in my youth! (Yeah I’m still young…I know) I stayed in a 14-bed girls’ dorm and I felt bad to be coughing before I fell asleep, but no one was mean about it or anything. I slept for about 7 hours and when I woke up, I still only felt about 70% but tried to make the best of it. I was still really happy to be there and my goal was to just finish, be happy, and not go to the hospital!

Me looking tired from sightseeing and being sick

Me looking tired from sightseeing and being sick

I got some encouraging words from my fellow hostel-mates, who saw my runner’s bib and wished me luck. That’s why I don’t mind staying in hostels–I like the interactions and people are really nice. I saw a girl named Heather at the hostel in a volunteer jacket, and she said she would be working at the finish line! I promised to keep an eye out for her.  The 10am start time meant that I was able to wake up at 7am and had until 8am to leave and take the Tube. All London Marathon participants got free Tube access from 7am-5pm on race day, just by showing their bibs! It was a nice little perk.

On the way, I met a brother-sister pair named Sara and James at the Swiss Cottage Tube station, and we chatted about the marathon and wished each other luck. I love the way the Brits pronounce “Marathon” as “Marathin.” If you ever watch the hilarious movie “Run Fatboy Run,” you will know what I am talking about. I also met a volunteer who was really excited to be handing out medals at the finish line.

So we got off at Greenwich station, and it was a 15-20 minute walk to the start area. I was in the Red “mass” start. The weather was perfectly beautiful–50s  in the morning, but reaching about 70s and sunny the whole time. I actually overdressed, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

Entrance to the staging area

Entrance to the staging area

I sported my Marathon Beasts warm-up jacket (thanks Leong!), my Oakley sunglasses, Marathon Maniacs singlet, and a black ribbon and “We are All Boston Marathoners” back bib to remind me who I was running for. It was a day of solidarity, to show the world that marathoners are not afraid.

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Amazingly enough, even with 35,000 runners milling about, my friend Trent (aka Marathon Man) from Australia managed to find me in the crowd, with no phone!! He didn’t even know I was running the race! That is race day magic, folks. That gave me a little boost of happiness and confidence to see a familiar face.

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At 9:58am, the entire crowd of runners fell silent for 30 seconds to mark a moment of silence for the Boston Marathon bombing victims. It was very powerful, knowing that the whole world was watching. Then, the starting gun went off, and off we were sent into the streets of London. Spectators filled the streets and the energy was electric! I even got to see my friend/coworker Gail as we were running at the start!

There were a ton of costumed runners and little kids cheering and giving high fives. I saw Scooby Doo, a camel, a bumblebee, and a beer bottle, just to name a few. At the London Tower Bridge (mile 12), I got passed by the beer bottle…womp womp.

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It must be so hot to run in costume…

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I asked a kind spectator to take a photo for me…lest I forget the moment…

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The London Bridge was towering and majestic, and I was incredibly lucky to be running through it. I even got to see my fast running buddies Stuart and Adam coming up on mile 23 once I reached the 13 mile mark. I screamed their names and they acknowledged me (they’re both sub-2:55 marathoners). Incredible.

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They served Lucozade and water on course…Lucozade is like a version of Gatorade, but a bit more tart. I had to dilute it with water. It’s very hard to gain entry into the Virgin London Marathon, so about 90% of the field are charity runners. I was one of the few without a charity singlet. I later learned that they only accept about 5,500 international entrants. I got my entry from my former employer, so I was one of the lucky ones. If you ever get a chance to run, do it!! It is one of the World Marathon Majors, part of a “grand slam” of big-city marathons. The spectators are incredible…about 700,000 showed up to cheer that day but it felt like more. I wrote my name on my singlet and got many cheers of “Go Lisa!”

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Here’s a view of Cutty Sark, a beautiful historical boat that we ran by. Absolutely stunning. There were a lot of spectators that were handing out gummy bears, orange slices, and bananas. I gratefully accepted, especially the gummy bears! I was so glad I wore a hat–it was really hot that day.

I was feeling pretty good through the halfway point, and then I started feeling a bit lethargic and sluggish from the heat. The first 3 miles my throat felt like sandpaper, despite carrying a small Lucozade bottle and hydrating along the way. Although I wasn’t supposed to have a time goal (taking it easy because of being sick), I really wanted to finish under 5 hours. I ran a good first half and thought of all the people cheering me on and tracking me back at home. I thought of my brave friends who ran the Boston Marathon, and I thought of the Boston Marathon bombing victims who had so much taken away from them. That made me forget any discomfort I was feeling at the moment.

As much as I wanted to reach the finish line, it was such an exhilarating race I almost didn’t want it to be over. The scenery was gorgeous and millions of pounds were being raised for charity. One of my favorite places was the “downtown” area with a lot of big office buildings…sometime after mile 18. There were so many spectators and it reminded me of the Chicago Marathon.

When I saw Big Ben and the London Eye, I knew that we were close to the finish at Buckingham Palace. I was hurting, and I knew that I wanted to reach the finish line ASAP.

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My friend and old college roommate Nicholette said she would be waiting for me near the finish line, so I was scanning the crowds for her face. I knew that it would be hard to spot her, and figured I would meet her in the family reunion area. I glanced at my watch and saw that I could finish under 4:55 if I really pushed it. This was a difficult marathon for me and I felt like a newbie all over again. I embraced that feeling though–marathons are never easy, and it’s how we deal with the tough ones that we realize what we are really made of.

I crossed the finish in 4:54:43, overwhelmed by emotion and feeling spent, but victorious.

Here were my final results:

Net time: 4:54:43

Overall place: 23345/34202

Females: 6639/12066

Age group: 3986, F18-39

At the finish line, I gratefully accepted my medal and started to wander about looking for my bag and trying to find a way to reach Nicholette.

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Soon after, I spotted the new friend I made at the hostel this morning, Heather the volunteer!! She was at a table on the left and I happened to cross the finish line on my left. Race day magic again! She let me borrow her phone (my iPhone was useless in London) so I could make a quick phone call to Nicholette. Thanks, Heather! Later, I learned that she traveled all the way from Cambridge (a 1 hr regional train ride away) just to volunteer. People are amazing–thank you to all the volunteers.

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(Me and Heather.)

Everyone got a finisher food bag with goodies in it, including a heat Mylar blanket and a one-size fits all (??) cotton red “finisher” t-shirt. It was ginormous on me…glad I bought some Adidas gear at the expo. I’ll use it as a nightgown…that is the only bad thing about this marathon–the shirt isn’t really wearable.

I found Nicholette at the finish line–it meant so much to me to have her there! I was still wobbly on my feet, but we tried to get out of the family reunion area ASAP, and I stopped in my tracks for ice cream! I got a delicious ice cream cone as my first post-race food. Mm-mmm good!

Me and Nicholette

Me and Nicholette

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Before an early dinner (it was 3pm when I finished), Nicholette and I met up with Paola and I ate some mushroom soup at Pret a Manger. We also shopped around at Covent Garden, where I went to Tea Palace, the Apple Store, and even the Moomin (book character) store!

I was a bit disoriented and I hadn’t had lunch, so a 5:30pm dinner sounded a-ok to me. I also had an appointment for the one touristy thing I was going to do: ride the London Eye at 8:00pm.

Nicholette, Paola and I decided on Wahaca, a modern Mexican place.

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I ordered a spicy chicken burrito, coffee, and of course, churros con chocolate with dessert. I devoured it all–so yummy!

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Thanks Nicholette and Paola, for hanging out with me post-race! As the sun was setting, I made my way to the London Eye. The Thames River was gorgeous at dusk. Many passersby congratulated me on my run after seeing my medal.

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I got there with enough time to spare before my 8:00pm “flight time” on the world’s largest observation wheel. Sure, it was expensive (about $24) but I couldn’t think of a better leisurely sedentary activity to cap off my trip. I went on it once in 2008 and loved it. This time, they included a 4-D movie experience with price of admission. Sweet!

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And up we went!

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There were about 10 other people in my observation capsule, and everyone helped each other take photos. A man proposed to his girlfriend in our capsule, and she said yes! It was so sweet, and it was even more magical as the sun set.

London, you have been good to me. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

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Rockin’ and Rollin’ in the Nation’s Capital–RnR USA Marathon

I had a short but sweet visit to DC back in March for the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon. I was running on behalf of Team Refuel once again, proudly sporting my jersey and meeting up with other team members!

I stayed with my friend Lauren and she very kindly picked up my bib and VIP wristband for me at the expo.

I was exhausted after the 4.5 hour bus ride–Saturday races are hard logistically, especially if you have to travel for them. I tried to get at least 6 hours of sleep before waking up early to take the Metro. It was a chilly morning, and I woke up at dark o’clock with the impression that it might rain and remain in the 40’s for  the race!

I got to the start with plenty of time to spare–it started near the National Mall and thousands of runners were milling about.

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Soon after I got there, I bumped into none other than my dear friend Michele! She was tackling the full marathon too, and was hoping for a PR. I’m always amazed when people can find me pre-race without a cell phone in a crowd of thousands of people. It was a good sign!

Me and Michele at the Rock n Roll DC Marathon

Me and Michele at the Rock n Roll DC Marathon

My main focus was to be in good shape for the Virgin London Marathon on April 21, so I wanted to race with a hard effort, but continue building baseline mileage.

I also bumped into my Marathon Maniac friends Scot and Sandy at the start, as well as my buddy Catherine from my Ragnar DC relay team. It’s so nice seeing familiar faces!!

The course had a 5:30 cut-off for the full marathon, so I was aiming for a 4:45 to allow myself plenty of time. I ran with my Team Refuel zip-up around my waist for 26.2 miles, because I thought it was going to be cold but it heated up very quickly! At least it wasn’t raining!

The weather was actually perfect.  I ran with a camera and enjoyed the sights and sounds–parts of the course were familiar to me because I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and the Cherry Blossom 10-miler both in 2012, so that helped mentally.

There were a few long, steep hills, which killed my legs in the early miles but I ran up them and didn’t stop to walk. My body felt great and I felt like I could push myself.

Before I knew it, I was on pace to run 4:30! I was really surprised because I had an all-out attack strategy for Marine Corps, was on pace to run 4:05 or better, then I completely bonked and cramped so much that I ran a 4:31:32. This time was much different. I was aiming for a 4:45 and I felt strong and enjoyed the race much more.

I also knew that Lauren would be waiting for me at the finish line, so I didn’t want to make her wait too long for me, haha.

I crossed the finish in 4:31:04. Here were my official results:

Net time: 4:31:04, Pace: 10:21

Overall: 2217 out of 3540

Gender: 810 out of 1481

Division: 243 out of 416

I was proud, because I was running with an extra layer of clothes bouncing around my waist, and waved off the tiredness of travel and lack of sleep to push hard and finish strong.

Thanks Lauren and Jesus (my Team Refuel friend) for waiting for me at the finish line!

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I also found my friend George at the VIP tent. We ate mushroom ravioli, salad, and refueled with chocolate milk.

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I have pretty awesome teammates, and I want to thank Team Refuel and Got Chocolate Milk for the opportunity to run this race!

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A few days after I returned home, I ate at my favorite ramen place, Ippudo! I got their spicy ramen:

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And some other random/fun news–my friend Alejandra texted me that same week saying that she saw me in the April 2013 issue of Women’s Running magazine! They had printed a photo of me running the Big Sur marathon in 2012! I immediately ran out and bought a copy. Always smile when you’re running, because you never know who’s watching!!

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Disney World Marathon 20th Anniversary & Mission Chinese Food

It’s the night before the Empire State Building Run-Up, and as usual I am blogging late into the evening. I am so excited to compete in the Run-Up, and I can’t wait to write about it! But before I do that, I have to recap some awesome stuff that happened in January. To start the New Year off right, Jackie and I went to Mission Chinese Food on Orchard St in New York. It’s one of the hottest new restaurant openings of the year, and we wanted to try it before it got even more popular.

I got there at 5:15pm on 1/2 (considered a holiday), and there was already at least a 1.5 hour wait, a mere 15 minutes after the doors opened! The hostess was very nice though, and all the customers were excited to be there and didn’t mind waiting in the cramped foyer. Jackie arrived from work 30 minutes later, and being the foodie geeks that we were, we asked to take a picture with Chef Danny Bowien. Not only did he take a photo with us, he let us have a glimpse of the kitchen, and he later gifted us a plate of super spicy chicken wings!

Lisa, Chef Danny Bowien, and Jackie

Lisa, Chef Danny Bowien, and Jackie

We shared the plate with other people in line–also our mouths were on fire because of the copious amounts of hot chilies on the plate! We buddied up with some people in line to chat about what to order, and after TWO HOURS (worth it), our table was ready!

Our friend Juergen later joined us for dinner, and we ordered all the good stuff off the menu: thrice cooked bacon, egg egg noodles, beef roll, and kung pao pastrami.

Thrice cooked bacon at Mission Chinese Food

Thrice cooked bacon at Mission Chinese Food

It was a ton of food, and best of all, everything was delicious. My favorite was the thrice cooked bacon…Jackie proclaimed that next time, she’s not sharing, haha. If it weren’t for the 2-hour wait, I would come here all the time. Thanks Chef Danny for meeting us, and the staff at Mission Chinese–you guys are great!

The Disney World Marathon Weekend

The weekend of January 12-13, I went on a whirlwind trip to Orlando, FL so I could run in the 20th Anniversary Disney World Marathon. I did the Goofy Challenge in 2011, and while it was fun, it was extremely expensive ($340 registration), and I wasn’t a fan of waking up at 2:30am two days in a row. The Goofy Challenge is a combination race–you run the half marathon on a Saturday, and the full marathon the day after, for a total of 39.3 miles in a weekend. It’s worth doing once, but I probably won’t do it again until I’m rolling in the dough, haha.

I arrive on Saturday morning at the Disney Caribbean Beach resort, put down my things, and headed straight to the expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. There were commemorative items for sale, like Dooney & Bourke 20th Anniversary marathon bags, posters, pins, and other stuff. I splurged a bit on a Dooney and Bourke cross-body bag. I couldn’t resist!

Special limited-edition Dooney & Bourke bag made just for the marathon!

Special limited-edition Dooney & Bourke bag made just for the marathon!

I also got to meet former Olympian Jeff Galloway, the official runDisney training consultant. Olympic triathlete Hunter Kemper was also taking photos with fans at the Cigna booth! It was the first time I’ve heard his name, but he’s a really nice guy and down-to-earth. He ran the half-marathon earlier in the day and came in third.

Me and Jeff Galloway, Olympian and famous running coach

Me and Jeff Galloway, Olympian and famous running coach

Me with Olympic triathlete Hunter Kemper in the Cigna booth

Me with Olympic triathlete Hunter Kemper in the Cigna booth

I was pretty exhausted after my flight, so after picking up my packet and posing for a few more photo opps, I was eager to avoid the madness and finally get to explore the park! I bought an afternoon ticket for $69 at the expo (saving $15 or so) and decided to spend the rest of the day at Magic Kingdom.

New Balance photo booth pic

New Balance photo booth pic

I got to Magic Kingdom around 3:30pm and finally ate a late lunch. I had a barbecue chicken flatbread and iced mocha from Pinocchio’s Tavern (a fast-food type place), and made a note to myself to try and eat better next time I come to Disney! It’s so hard to travel and find the “right” foods to eat before a marathon. I was meeting up with my friends Scot and Sandy (Marathon Maniacs who recently got married at the Honolulu Marathon!) so I was looking forward to seeing them and not crash on an empty stomach. I went to see the new Fantasyland, and while the structures themselves were impressive (Ariel’s castle and the Beast’s castle), the attractions were so-so and aimed towards younger kids. I really wanted to eat at the new Be Our Guest restaurant , but you had to reserve weeks in advance. Next time!

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Ariel's castle, part of the new Fantasyland

Ariel’s castle, part of the new Fantasyland

I had a blast watching Philharmagic 3-D and going on rides like Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, and Haunted Mansion. Scot and Sandy joined me for the Haunted Mansion ride so that made it even more fun!

Me and Sandy clowning around at the Haunted Mansion

Me and Sandy clowning around at the Haunted Mansion

Scot and Sandy, the newlyweds!

Scot and Sandy, the newlyweds!

Before my day was over, I scarfed down a pulled pork sandwich from some diner in Tomorrowland, caught the “Wishes” fireworks show, and saw my favorite thing ever, the Main Street Electrical Parade!

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At around 10:00pm, I finally left the park and got back to my hotel at 11:00pm. I had been awake since 3:30am Saturday and I had to wake up at 3:00am for the Disney Marathon, yikes!

So yes, I did make it out of bed (one of my fears is oversleeping for a destination marathon), and here, I bring you a sub-set of this blog post:

How to get the most bang for your buck during the Disney World marathon (and having fun with it)

1) Don’t worry about your marathon time when it’s 80F, 80% humidity, and your “stuck in an NYC winter” body hasn’t adjusted to summer temps yet.

2) Carry a camera and take lots of pictures with the characters

Pirates of the Caribbean!

Pirates of the Caribbean!

3) Wait 20 minutes on line for a semi-blurry photo with Mickey and Minnie

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4) When you’re running on a marathon course completely exposed to sun, pretend like you’re working on your tan and that the sun is your friend.

5) Ride the Expedition Everest roller coaster mid-race (in Animal Kingdom), around mile 12.8. Best. Decision. Ever.

A souvenir from my mid-race roller coaster ride

A souvenir from my mid-race roller coaster ride

6) If you see a massive line for a photo opportunity, like the one at Mile 20 (the 20th anniversary “surprise”), move off to the side and take your own photo. It’s sort of like a civil way to photobomb.

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7) Enjoy your shiny, spinning Mickey medal at the finish and remember that the winners of the race and the back-of-packers get the same medal!

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The 20th Anniversary Disney World marathon medal

The 20th Anniversary Disney World marathon medal

So, my final time was 6:13:15, which was a personal worst by 13 minutes (my second-worst time was the Chicago Marathon 2007 during the heat wave), but I had a blast! It was totally worth it to get photos with all my favorite characters and to ride a roller coaster mid-race. Plus, I usually wilt in the heat so the goal was to finish without getting dehydrated. Here are a few more photos from my journey:

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I got a photo with Mushu (from Mulan) in Disney World back when I was 11 years old, so the last photo has special significance for me!

I got to cheer on other Team Refuel members during the race, and I even got asked about the Team Refuel voting contest from a prospective team member. As soon as I finished and got back to my hotel, I was frantically trying to clear the room and check out (they only gave me 12:00pm checkout while another person from the same hotel got 1:00pm! Not cool). I put my stuff in the luggage room and headed to the resort’s food court in search of some calories and chocolate milk. Luckily, they had Nesquik (my favorite), and I downed it to help aid my recovery. I also had baked ziti and a breadstick to hold me over, at least until I got my second lunch haha.

I met my friend Derrick from California in Downtown Disney for some more high-quality recovery food. We ended up going to Wolfgang Puck’s Bistro for some awesome food in a casual setting. I had a hearty chicken noodle soup and a pesto chicken sandwich with aioli.

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Derrick did the Goofy Challenge and had three clanging medals to prove it! The medals came in handy because RunDisney arranged for 20% off several restaurants for finishers that showed their medals. Score! Lastly, we stopped by Earl of Sandwich and I got an amazing Hawaiian chicken sandwich with pineapple. It was so delicious. I find that I like to eat two smaller meals after a marathon, because immediately after I usually have a small appetite.

I left Orlando on Sunday and had a good flight home. It was a short weekend, but filled with great memories. I am grateful for the support of Team Refuel, and I like sporting my jersey in races like this! I feel blessed to have been one of the lucky runners in the 20th Anniversary of this very special marathon.