Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


Empire State Building Run-Up (Part 2) and Happy Lunar New Year!

[ESBRU recap continued from Part 1]

I'm ready to run up this thing!

I’m ready to run up this thing!

So, the funny thing about the Empire State Building Run-up was that I didn’t know what to eat beforehand for an 8pm race. I had a big lunch of sticky rice with chicken at 12pm, followed by a Potbelly Italian sandwich around 2:30pm, just to keep my salt levels up. I hydrated all day like it was my job. I drank Nuun electrolyte drink and plenty of water, to prepare for the dry air in the stairwell. I ate a KIND brand granola bar the hour before the race, just so I could have something in my stomach, but I didn’t want to eat anything that might make me hurl! (I usually never think of the worst-case-scenario, but see–told you I was nervous).

Me with my coworkers Daphne and Sean

Me with my coworkers Daphne and Sean

I have been asked, how could I be nervous about running a 0.2 mile race (a quarter mile straight up, fighting gravity) when I’ve run 24-hour races before? Well, it was uncharted territory for me–I had never climbed up 86 floors in one attempt before. It is quite different from running a few miles for practice and then running the full distance in a race. I don’t do well with acute pain. Indoor track had been my weakness back in high school, since I didn’t take well to the wheezing and bloody, dry feeling when I sprinted over short distances.

Ok, deep breath, Lisa. You can do this! I kept picturing my heart giving out somewhere around the 76th Floor, and me collapsing as runners stepped over me. This positive visualization thing is NOT working.

Around 6pm the same day, I head to a cool event celebrating National Women’s Day at Niketown. I ran into my friend Evelyn there. I entered the raffle for a chance to win a Nike Fuelband or a pair of Nike Running sunglasses, but unfortunately I had to leave before the winner’s name was drawn. My name was on the raffle ticket, so I told Evelyn to try and claim the prize on my behalf if they called my name, since I had to head to the Empire State Building early for packet pick-up. Around 6:50pm, Evelyn texts me and says,

“Hey. You won.”


Are you kidding?? There were at least 50 other women there! Wow!!

Luckily, I didn’t have to run back to Niketown–the nice Nike people let Evelyn choose a badass pair of sunglasses on my behalf.

My raffle prize: Nike women's running sunglasses. Thanks Evelyn!

My raffle prize: Nike women’s running sunglasses. Thanks Evelyn!

I was ecstatic. The night was off to a good start!

So I get to the staging area on the second floor, and even at 7:00pm (an hour before race time), the place was throbbing with energy. A DJ was spinning music, adding to the party atmosphere. I take the requisite pre-race photos with friends, and I’m happy to bump into my friends Helen and fellow Marathon Maniac Jackie!

Jackie's friend (left), Jackie (center) and me

Jackie’s friend (left), Jackie (center) and me

Wams and me pre-run-up

Wams and me pre-run-up


Earlier in the day, my friend Shannon provided me an awesome list of ESBRU tips, including:

1) Use your arms as much as possible to pull yourself up the railings

2) Running the landings/flat parts

3) Breathe in through your nose and mouth quickly to give your lungs maximum capacity

4) Note that the first 50 floors goes by very quickly, but the last 36 floors have high ceilings and it seems to go on forever.

Thanks for the tips, Shannon! I also was told by Daphne to chew gum or take cough drops, because the air is super dry. I picked up my awesome tech shirt, a drawstring bag, and my bib, and I chat with my friends a bit to calm my nerves.

At 8:00pm, the pros were off. Later, I was told that a pair of Aussies won the men and women’s races, respectively. More on their insane finish times later. Read about the pro stair-climbers in this NY Times article. They don’t mess around.

At around 8:05pm, the media heat went off. My friend Brian was coaching Kelly Ripa on her run-up. As a result, he got an awesome shout-out on Kelly’s talk show, and he also appears in the last 10 minutes of Live! with Kelly and Michael here.

You can see a glimpse of Kelly Ripa (bib 300). She was high-fiving participants.

You can see a glimpse of Kelly Ripa (bib 300). She was high-fiving participants.

At 8:15pm, my heat starts lining up. For some reason I’m placed in the first heat, which either implies I’m really fast (ha!) or they knew I just wanted to get this over with (probably). In any case, I was excited to finally get going. This will be my first time ever on the Empire State Building observation deck! My friend Ben was there to support and take photos. Thanks, Ben!

Lisa pre-run-up. Photo by Ben Ko.

Lisa pre-run-up. Photo by Ben Ko.

We wait about 10 minutes in the second floor corrals, then we’re led to the first floor where the start line is located. We’re waiting around for about 15 minutes. I had already eaten two of my three cough drops already. Oops! I was wondering what the delay was, and then finally I saw: they were spacing runners five seconds apart. It was a time-trial; they lined up the athletes single file, they gave you the signal to go, then you went up the staircase individually. It was a lot safer this way–the pros have to sprint for the small doorway, and usually there are elbows being thrown. Luckily I didn’t have to worry about that. The event director gave us last minute instructions: “Folks, remember that once you enter the stairwell, there’s only one way out–you must go UP the stairs. Do not go DOWN the stairs, go UP.” That made me chuckle. I guess someone had tried to go down…


Finally, around 8:50pm it was my turn. Ready, set, go!

I sprint towards the doorway into a gunmetal-gray stairwell. It’s pretty narrow, only wide enough for about two people. I climb up the stairs two at a time, and around the 10th floor I’m already breathing heavily. I pass a few people on the way up, and everyone’s really polite about it. I whisper ” ‘Scuse me,” because I have no breath left to talk! It feels like a jail (or a really old public school)–most of the doors are shut, the stairwell is drab, and all I can hear is the echoing of feet above me. I try to run the landings at first, but at the 20th floor I’m already struggling. I didn’t want to pull out my camera to take photos because I was aiming for under 20:00, and that would have wasted precious time.

I noticed that there were cheery Empire State Building employees intoning the destination every 10th floor so that you could keep track. When you’re flying up the stairs as fast as you can, it’s hard to read the numbers. I loved the employees! They looked so chipper in their maroon uniforms and were the only source of motivation in this dead zone. I reach a water station somewhere around the 30th floor (I could be wrong). My legs start feeling dead, but at least they’re not hurting. My lungs feel like they’ve aged five years by breathing in all the dust. My coworker Gordon comes up behind me and she shouts encouragingly, “This is nothing! You can do it!” as she speeds by. She’s an amazing runner–I have no clue how she had the energy to cheer. The cough drop feels like sandpaper in my dry mouth. Crazy!

40th floor…

I start feeling dizzy. I no longer care whom I pass or who passes me. I felt so lethargic. “This is hell on earth,” I think. “Why, why would anyone voluntarily do this??”

50th floor…

I remember Shannon’s words. The higher floors do feel like they take forever. I was desperate to get some fresh air–my brain felt like it was cotton. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so bad. Maybe it’s because stair-climbing is the most masochistic sport ever.

60th floor…

I slow down a lot. I feel like I was going to faint if I went any faster. Slow. And. Steady. I don’t want to die….

70th floor…

I start to cough. My vision starts to get blurry…so close, hang in there…

80th floor…

I trudge up the stairs and I can feel a slight wind. There’s fresh air! One of the stairwell doors is propped open and the breeze gives me hope. An ESBRU employee yells “you got this!”

86th floor…

Like a lost hiker in the desert staggering towards a mirage, I shift my tired legs into a run towards the observation deck door. The volunteers and staff are clapping and cheering as the runners emerged, dazed, and run a victory lap around the deck. The finish line is illuminated and the city is a beautiful carpet of lights beneath our feet. I made it! I have conquered the Empire State Building Run-Up!



Here were my final results:

Net time for 86 floors (1,561 steps): 20:35

Overall: 379/726

Gender Place: 93/248, Age Place: 29/69

For comparison purposes, the first-place male, Mark Bourne, finished in 10:12. The women’s winner, Suzy Walsham, finished in 12:05. They are jaw-droppingly hardcore. Read about the results here.

My friend Chad, who was working the finish line

My friend Chad, who was working the finish line

It was cold, and the staff and volunteers were trying to usher me inside. “Wait!” I said, “I need to take more pictures!” My brain was really addled and I needed the fresh air. I breathed deeply and just enjoyed the view. Then, reality set in and I realized it was about 30F and I was in shorts and singlet. Plus, I needed to get my medal inside.

The view was definitely worth it. It’s beautiful at night.

View from Empire State Building, 2/6/13

View from Empire State Building, 2/6/13


The finish line

The finish line

All the volunteers and staff were fantastic. Once I went inside, I saw tons of volunteers eager to hand us our medals. The medal is gorgeous!

ESBRU finisher medals

ESBRU finisher medals

I got my medal and took a few more photos before heading down in the elevator. I had to take one with a fabulous ESB staff member:




I went back down in the elevator and was very happy to have post-race plans to look forward to. My friends were waiting to celebrate with me at Arirang Noodle restaurant in Korea town. Thanks so much to everyone who came out and made me feel special! Congrats also to Wams and my fellow stair runners who completed the race!

Me and Wams at Arirang

Me and Wams at Arirang

A few of the lovely people who came to celebrate at Arirang

A few of the lovely people who came to celebrate at Arirang

I ordered a delicious bowl of chicken and handmade noodles in soup. It was super delicious.

Chicken noodle soup at Arirang, Korean-style

Chicken noodle soup at Arirang, Korean-style

My head felt funny, as if it were stuffed with cotton, and unfortunately this feeling persisted for two days! I also was sneezing non-stop for two days, and I’d “almost-sneeze” and feel even worse because I couldn’t get it out. I later found out that the likely cause was the thinner air and slight air pressure change at the top of the building, which explained why I felt so bad starting around the 40th floor. There was also a lack of oxygen and poor ventilation in the stair well. This is an awesome, unique race, but just be prepared for some challenges that you can’t really train for! For me, the hardest part was the dry air and lack of oxygen. Luckily, everything returned to normal in a few days.

Thanks everyone for your support and positive energy before, during and after the race!

Last but not least, thanks to Team Refuel for providing my awesome jersey, and to Shamrock Farms and Team Refuel for the Rockin’ Refuel chocolate milk that I devoured at home post-race! The chocolate milk helped me recover, and my legs weren’t even sore the next day.

Thanks Rockin' Refuel!

Thanks Rockin’ Refuel!

Happy Lunar New Year!

I want to wish everyone a happy Year of the Snake in 2013! I celebrated with a family dinner in a restaurant in Brooklyn. It was great seeing my mom’s side of my family, and my little cousin Fion even baked a beautiful cake for the occasion!

Lunar New Year is one of my favorite holidays, because the focus is on family and sharing a meal together. Sure, there are also lucky red envelopes, but that’s just a bonus. I wish all my friends health and happiness in the coming year!

Beautiful fondant cake baked by Fion!

Beautiful fondant cake baked by Fion!

My aunt got me these cute Disney Princess lucky red envelopes...

My aunt got me these cute Disney Princess lucky red envelopes…


Grand Central Centennial, Lululemon Warehouse sale, Empire State Building Run-up preview & NYRR races!

I had a jam-packed week from 2/1-2/6, filled with Super Bowl excitement, Lululemon Yogabowl Warehouse sale planning, two races, and Grand Central’s 100th birthday!  I had actually just run the NYRR Manhattan Half Marathon on Sunday, 1/27, and had barely recovered from the cold snap that we had for that race. It was one of the coldest races I had ever run, 20F at the start and it only warmed up to 24F by the finish. I ran a 2:06:36 (9:40 min/mile pace), but I really wasn’t going for time because it took me all of 3 miles to warm up and feel my feet! I decided to race smart and save my effort for the Gridiron Classic 4-miler and the Empire State Building Run-up the following week. Thanks so much to my friend Ben for taking photos, Jennie and others for cheering, and to all the volunteers who braved the cold!

Manhattan Half Marathon (photo by Ben Ko)

Manhattan Half Marathon (photo by Ben Ko)

Trying to stay warm at the post-finish

Trying to stay warm at the post-finish

It was my first half-marathon of 2013, so I was happy with the effort. January for me is all about getting back into it after a bit of holiday indulgence.

A few days later, on Friday, 2/1/13, was a New York milestone: Grand Central Terminal’s 100th birthday! As a native New Yorker and someone who had been through Grand Central more than a few times, I was excited to partake in the celebration. There were giveaways, food samplings, and some merchants even “rolled back” to 1913 prices!

GCT blog1

I’m pretty good at finding deals and discounts in NYC, and this seemed like a gold mine of deals. Plus, I wanted to be there for the festive atmosphere. There was a big stage set up for a ceremony and celebrity guests like Cynthia Nixon and Mayor Bloomberg, but I didn’t stick around for that.

I was able to take advantage of the following deals throughout the day:

– 1913 prices: 5 cent fudge at Li-lac chocolates, 10 cent nylon watch straps

– bought four $2 silk scarves from Toto

– Free stuff: Vince Camuto nail polish, Grand Central (plastic) luggage tags,

– Tastings: free seafood spring rolls from Pescatore, large financier pastry from Financier, Granola bars

There were huge lines for some things like 5 cent coffee from Financier, so I steered clear of those. Other cool stuff that happened throughout the day included: USPS unveiling a limited-edition express mail Grand Central commemorative stamp, First Day of issue cancellations, the holiday train show, Guiness World Record presentation for “busiest terminal in the world,” a Lego model replica of GCT, and special merchandise at the NYC Transit Museum Store. Financier even created a beautiful cake to celebrate the centennial!

The famous golden clock sits atop the GCT 100 cake by Financier Patisserie

The famous golden clock sits atop the GCT 100 cake by Financier Patisserie

Lego replica of Grand Central

Lego replica of Grand Central

I was actually most excited about the First Day of Issue cancellations for the postage stamp, since my mom is a philatelist (stamp collector) as a hobby, and I used to go to stamp shows as a kid. There was a huge line for this, but I buddied up with a stranger to minimize the wait time (he was in one line and I was in another). The First Day Covers are also collector’s items, and can be very valuable one day. For me, I’m just keeping it for sentimental reasons (for now).

photo (3)

My best souvenir of the day--GCT 100 First Day of  Issue cover!

My best souvenir of the day–GCT 100 First Day of Issue cover!

And, like a big geek, I got super excited when I realized that the MTA created special Grand Central Metrocards that were issued at the vending machines at Grand Central. Perfect timing–I needed to buy a new monthly Metrocard anyway!

GCT blog 3

Happy 100th Birthday Grand Central!

Lululemon Yogabowl Warehouse Sale, Long Island 2/2/13


I am a pretty big fan of Lululemon athletic wear for running. I ran my 100-miler in Lululemon shorts, flew to Vancouver with my friend Amy for the inaugural Sea Wheeze Half Marathon (sponsored by Lululemon) in August 2012, and I pretty much buy their stuff on sale (usually only 20% off) if I reach a significant running milestone. When I first heard about the Lululemon Warehouse Sale (Yogabowl), I knew I wanted in. Problem was, the sale was on Long Island and I don’t drive.

Well, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I connected with four of my running friends who were also Lululemon fans, and we planned all week long to hit the sale on Saturday (the second day) to score some running gear at deep discounts. Lululemon stuff only goes on sale once in a blue moon, and only for overstock items. At best, you get 25-30% off, nothing more. I heard that each year since they started a warehouse sale, Lululemon only picks one US location and one Canadian location. Last year’s was Chicago, so this was an opportunity not to be missed!

So Evelyn, Cipriana, Kristen, Mary and I piled into a rented car at 6:30am on Saturday, and drove from Brooklyn to Long Island. We had stopped at Bagelsmith in Brooklyn for breakfast, so that helped us feel more alert. After a 45-minute drive, we arrived 7:40am and doors opene at 8:00am. Luckily, the line was pretty short compared to Friday’s reports (two hour long waits!).

Four Brooklyn girls and a Manhattanite at the Lululemon sale

Four Brooklyn girls and a Manhattanite at the Lululemon sale

We were waiting for only 10 minutes after the doors opened (maybe 100 people ahead of us).

Once we were in, I headed straight to the racks of crop pants and “Swiftly” tees. Most of my friends were done browsing in 1.5 hours, but I took two hours because I was having a hard time narrowing down my choices.  The space (Nassau Coliseum) was huge, there were fitting rooms, and there was a huge selection for women in most sizes. The men’s section was pretty small.

Lululemon sale at the Nassau Coliseum

Lululemon sale at the Nassau Coliseum


Some of the prices (as of 8am Saturday) were pretty decent– $29 for a pair of shorts (normally $62), $69 for jackets, $4 for undies.

-great selection—best selections were in sizes 8 and up, but I still had a lot to browse through for size 6

-They had a decent amount of stuff from the Sea Wheeze, their race in Vancouver (limited edition product)

-it was a good crowd, no one got mean or pushed or anything

-they had a DJ and dance stage for entertainment

– at 9:30am they started giving out free bikini tops (normally $58) and one-pc bathing suits with every purchase!

Cute crop pants I ended up buying

Cute crop pants I ended up buying


-Some things were still pretty expensive—for example, a running top was still $39 (marked down from $59)

-Three hours after we left they dramatically slashed prices—when we arrived everything was below $99, at 12Pm everything was below $55, and they had 4 men’s items for $100! Bummer, oh well.

-the pricing was really confusing at the register—you couldn’t see what they were typing in and you had to check your receipt to make sure they didn’t over charge. I had to check it like 3 times.

In the end, I got a good haul of 10 items (including smaller things like a yoga mat bag and undies) and I had fun. The sale was overwhelming at times. I would go back if the sale returns to the area, but I wouldn’t fly in for it (like the girls in this article)! My friends were also very patient and we all got good stuff. I like Lululemon because their designs are awesome, and their stuff lasts. I run a lot of races in the products and nothing has fallen apart yet!

After all that shopping, we were hungry, so we rushed back to Brooklyn around 11:00am for brunch. We had some vegetarians in the group, so we went to an awesome vegan spot named Maimonides of Brooklyn (M.O.B.). The space was bright and airy, the food was fantastic, and the menu was interesting. I ordered the spicy grits with kale and vegan sausage, and it was great! I will definitely be back. They even have La Colombe coffee!

Maimonides of Brooklyn, a vegan restaurant/cafe.

Maimonides of Brooklyn, a vegan restaurant/cafe.

Spicy grits

Spicy grits

NYRR Gridiron Classic 4-miler, 2/6/13 (Super Bowl Sunday)

After all that pre-Super Bowl shopping excitement, I was ready to run the Gridiron Classic! This was a cold, wet race for me. I wore my thin New Balance sneakers, and unfortunately they are so thin that any moisture from the ground seeps up through the sole! My feet were cold and wet by walking through a rain-soaked Central Park before the race even started. I saw Kino in his Baltimore Ravens jersey, and a group of my Dashing Whippets teammates. There were a ton of people, since the race was sold out.

Dashing Whippets before the Gridiron 4-miler

Dashing Whippets before the Gridiron 4-miler

I was wearing purple because I was cheering for the Baltimore Ravens. Go Ravens!!

I felt pretty good the entire race–although it was cold, it wasn’t as cold as the previous weekend so I wanted to make the most of the weather. I finished in a time of 33:22, or 8:21 min/mile pace. I was pretty happy! I also had to save my legs for the Empire State Building Run-Up taking place only three days later on 2/6. It was nice seeing my running friends, as always.

I'm closing my eyes here. Must be tired.

I’m closing my eyes here. Must be tired.

Ran into my friend Eric at the finish line!

Ran into my friend Eric at the finish line!

After the race, I had lunch with my friends Suzanne and Celia at Forcella in Brooklyn. They specialize in amazing fried margherita pizza. The crust is fried, then it’s baked in a brick oven. It was delicious. Thanks Suzanne for the invite! I was then off to Alex T’s place for a Super Bowl viewing party. I’m glad I ran a race the day of, since I indulged in wings, chips, guacamole, and all that good stuff that completes a Super Bowl party. Ravens won, yes!!

Fried margherita pizza at Forcella

Fried margherita pizza at Forcella

Empire State Building Run-Up, 2/6/13 (Part 1)

The Empire State Building Run-up is a very special race. Where else can you run up 86 stories (1,576 steps) to a gorgeous nighttime view of New York City? I had been trying to get in for the past two years but didn’t get in through lottery, and then finally I made it in! The field is limited to about 730 people, and this year over 1,900 people applied. I felt very lucky to be toeing the starting line. Some media celebrities like Natalie Morales and Kelly Ripa were running too! I had met both of them in previous events (Natalie at the 20in24 Back on My Feet race in 2011, and Kelly at an off-Broadway play), and it was cool to be facing the same challenge as them. Kelly Ripa was fundraising for Team for Kids (a cause near and dear to my heart, providing running programs for needy kids), and Natalie was fundraising for MMRF (Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation), so my hats off to them!

The Empire State Building is lit up in orange for MMRF (Multiple Myeloma Research Fdn)

The Empire State Building is lit up in orange for MMRF (Multiple Myeloma Research Fdn)

Going into it, I knew not to underestimate these stairs. I had prepped as well as I could, practicing on stairs in my office building ( 3 x 11 floors), climbing the Haiku Stairs, using the Stairmaster at the gym for 20 minutes at a time, and keeping up my running. I pretended that my running background gave me little to no advantage, and that was actually the right way to approach it.

I was pretty nervous, staring up at the skyscraper and knowing that I would be running up the belly of the beast at 8:00pm after a long workday. My friends provided encouraging posts on my Facebook page and through email, so I’m thankful for those! My friend Kenneth said “King Kong has nothing on  you!” Knowing that, I couldn’t possibly fail!


Stay tuned for part 2 in a few days…(even though it’s a short race, it deserves its own post!)