Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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50th marathon milestone and the Chevron Houston Marathon with Skechers!

It has been a crazy winter for everyone in the Northeast–snow upon snow! I’ve had a bunch of life changes recently (all great ones)–so this has been my first post in awhile. I moved from Brooklyn to Queens and I’m loving it, and I recently started a new job! Life is good. Another recent development is that I reached a big milestone–I completed 50 marathons since I started running races in November 2005!

Rewind back to December 20, 2014–my friend and fellow Skechers ambassador Otto Lam put on a low-key, invite-only race called the Bryan Court 100. I was honored to be a part of this invitational ultramarathon–which was 37.2 miles (60K), or 100 loops of a cul-de-sac in New Jersey. Sounds crazy, right? Well it was, but it was also a lot of fun!

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Every lap was .33 miles, and there was an aid station for each lap so I took a lot of eating breaks and bathroom breaks. I knew most of the runners there so it felt like one big party. Thanks to all the volunteers counting laps, and Juergen, Otto and Louisa for hosting!

I ended up placing second female overall, which was a nice surprise! I felt like I ran steadily the whole time–my official time was 8:08 and there were 33 participants total–I was in great company with incredible ultrarunners, so it felt challenging the whole time! The best part of the race was that at the end, finishers and participants received a beautiful buckle designed by Grammi Lee. It’s one award that I will treasure forever!

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My wonderful friends also got me a beautiful chocolate ganache cake with “50” numerical candles on it–I loved it! Thanks Juergen and Otto!! I’m truly lucky to have been surrounded by so many friends.

Chevron Houston Marathon

Fast forward to January 18 when I ran the Chevron Houston Marathon. Thanks to my awesome sponsor Skechers Performance for my race entry and for the opportunity! I had a wonderful AirBnB stay in Houston, and my host even drove me to the start of the race! I highly recommend AirBnB for seasoned travelers, especially if you are only in the area for 1-2 days for a race. I flew in on Saturday afternoon and caught the race expo before closing time. It was a nice expo with a huge Skechers booth selling merchandise, other booths selling race fuel and running gear, and more! I even bought a medal rack (finally) that has the quote “She believed she could, so she did.” I’m in love with it! It’s simple but it’s an inspiring mantra that I try to live by.

Here’s me at the expo:

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I’m rocking the same singlet as the one the elite athletes (like Meb) wear! after the expo, I headed to the Grove for a pre-race cocktail party, courtesy of Skechers. There were passed hors d’ouvres and beverages, mini burgers, cheese plates, and more. I got to meet other Regional Skechers Brand Ambassadors (most from the Houston area), and some really awesome people from Skechers corporate. Most exciting though, was when Meb stopped by the party. He’s already met me a few times, but I always re-introduce myself anyway. He totally remembered me! We chatted a bit about the race, and he was friendly as always. So honored to be on Meb’s team!

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Rooftop deck at the Grove

Rooftop deck at the Grove

Afterward, I got Mexican food at Guadalajara del Centro–not my usual pre-race meal (I prefer Italian), but I don’t regret it at all! The Italian restaurant closest to the expo was all booked up, so I tried Mexican food in Houston for dinner–definitely a must-do! The complimentary chips and salsa were so amazing–the chips were paper-thin, fresh and super crunchy. I got a chicken fajita plate and it was stellar as well. Good night Houston!

Race day

I wore these bad boys to run in:

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They are the Skechers GoRun Ride 4’s. I actually didn’t have much time to break them in, but I wasn’t worried because I’ve run in similar shoe models before. I felt a little nervous pre-race because I was down there by myself, but my AirBnB host said he would be out cheering with some friends! The George Brown Convention Center was race central–you drop off your gear inside and the race ends there as well. It’s massive! Logistically, having the expo, start and finish in the same area is a runner’s dream. I lined up at the start, and in minutes we were off! The race announcer even called out my name!

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The race is really flat, and it runs through pretty much all of Houston, including Rice University (my friend Rob’s alma mater)! The weather was awesome too, so I got super-lucky. I met another Skechers ambassador (from Houston) who gave me a shout-out–he was so friendly but I couldn’t remember his name! That was a cool moment. There were a lot of cafes and shops that we ran by–I always make a mental note to check it out later. There were a lot of people running the Aramco Houston Half-marathon simultaneously, so the course was crowded but not overwhelming.

The aid stations were really well-stocked, and the volunteers were amazing! I tried to thank as many of them as I could. I also ran into Ronald McDonald along the way and HAD to take a picture of him and his red shoe car.

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I also saw cows dressed in costumes that said “Eat more Chik’n” (from Chik-fil-A), so that made me laugh too. There was a ton of entertainment on the course, and I was really amazed at how well-organized everything was.

I crossed the finish line feeling strong in 4:34:08. I was really happy with my result, since it was a brutal winter to train through!

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I also met some really great people in the post-race recovery area, which was stocked with tons of hot food, coffee, chocolate milk (I’m also sponsored by Team Chocolate Milk), ice cream, fruit and more! I met some “streakers” who ran the Houston Marathon for 16 years or more, as well as Cherry from Golden Triangle Strutters, who recognized me from Team Chocolate Milk. Seriously, the post-race area was one of the best I’ve ever seen!

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Final results:

Net time: 4:34:10

Overall place: 3826/7132

Gender Place: 1253, Division Place: 202

Of course, I had to take an #Ottolamming picture for my friend Otto (he always gives his all in every race and collapses in exhaustion):

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People asked me if I was ok, haha. Thanks for a great race, Houston, and thanks to Skechers for the opportunity! Readers–add the Chevron Houston Marathon to your list of must-do’s!

 

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Lululemon SeaWheeze–I run Vancouver!

Hello dear readers–I am back! This year, 2014, has been one of the busiest for me in ages. I have been fortunate enough to attend (and be in) several weddings this season, alternating with race weekends! That is why I have not posted in a while, but fear not, I am getting back on the wagon!

Lululemon SeaWheeze Half, 8/23/14

This summer, I was elated to return to the Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver! I had been looking forward to this trip for months–I love the city of Vancouver, and I couldn’t wait to get my run and yoga on! The race has become increasingly popular– it encountered registration issues in early 2014, and they had to shut down registration and use a new system a week later. Here’s why I love this race:

1) The city of Vancouver has it all: views of the mountains, the sea, the cityscape. Plus, there’s excellent food!

2) Lululemon is based in Vancouver, and the company makes a SeaWheeze-exclusive collection of workout wear and accessories, sold ONLY at the race expo on race weekend.

3) The half marathon is a ton of fun–with great perks and swag for the runners (limited-edition shorts mailed to you, a goody bag, a medal, finisher gift, and a runner’s “brunch” at the finish line)

4) I like meeting other Lululemon enthusiasts, and it’s fun being around other people as excited about the clothes and race as I am!

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I arrived in Vancouver on 8/21, and I was just walking around on Robson Street when I stumbled upon the grand opening party/yoga-fest for the new Lululemon flagship store on Robson! I got to say hello to my friend Dave Mari, and I participated in the yoga class with other Lululemon enthusiasts–the energy was incredible. What a great way to start my trip! I capped it off with a a delicious pasta dinner at Italian Kitchen. Their homemade pasta puttanesca with fresh ricotta is unbelievable.

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The SeaWheeze Showcase Store and my volunteer gig

One of the big draws of doing this race is the schwag, and also the opportunity to purchase exclusive Lululemon product from the SeaWheeze Showcase store. The exclusive designs are not available online and are available only on-site at the SeaWheeze Showcase store during race weekend in Vancouver. Many people line up super early before the store opens at 7am on Friday. I mustered up the energy to wake up at 6:30am and walked from the hostel where I stayed to the convention center. I got to the store at 6:50am and there were already at least 300 people on line in front of me. It was madness! However, the people I was on the line with were pretty chill, and we were all just excited to be there. After about an hour of waiting (there were capacity limits so they let us in slowly), we finally made it into the store. I headed straight towards my size, and luckily there was still a good selection because I got there early.

I was so tempted by everything I saw–this year’s theme was “illusions,” and there were pastels, rainbows, stripes, and chevron patterns–everything was super cute! I told myself I would limit my purchases to no more than 5 items, lest I suffer from buyer’s remorse! I also kept an eye out for my friends, who I was shopping for as well.

Here is some of the merch:

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I ended up getting the awesome black-and-white stripe patterned hoodie above, a pink tank with striped shelf bra for a friend, some socks. a pair of tights with a striped pastel waistband, and a black tank with rainbow bra. They gave us a cute holographic shopping bag as well! Even though I was among the first 400 people to enter the store, the merchandise moved so fast (people bought up to 15 items at a time!) that I didn’t even see certain items (a duffel bag and rainbow futuristic shorts were the hot tickets), but that’s probably for the better, as I wanted to stick to a budget!

I was thrilled to be able to bring back some cute souvenirs that I will definitely be sporting soon! Afterwards, I took a quick lunch break at Japadog, where I got an amazing terimayo hot dog. Then, I got ready for my 5-hour volunteer shift at the expo. Since I was traveling alone, I didn’t mind volunteering as a way to give back to the community. Races depend on volunteers for a successful event, and I wanted to put my time to good use. It also didn’t hurt that we got cute t-shirts as well that said “voluncheer” on them! I helped manage the packet pickup line and was also a “bib finder” to hand out the appropriate packets to the runner. It was a bit tiring being on my feet, but I enjoyed it.

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Race day

Finally, the SeaWheeze Half was here! I was so excited that I had no trouble waking up at the crack of dawn, so I could be ready to go by 6am for the race start at 7am. Bag drop was smooth and the energy in the air was palpable. Many runners were donning the race-supplied shorts or their Lululemon best. I wore my Virgin London Marathon shirt and one of my favorite Lulu colorful skorts.

I just wanted to have fun and enjoy the experience. I didn’t plan on going out fast because I was still recovering from muscle fatigue from my back-to-back ultramarathons in the summer. Plus, I was still feeling a bit jet-lagged. The weather was a perfect and I planned to take photos along the way!

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Just as I remembered, the course was a bit tough. We went over bridges, traversed many neighborhoods like Chinatown, Kitsilano, the Sea wall and Stanley Park. The inclines were the toughest, but there were cheer squads and water stations to keep our spirits up. Lululemon sure knows how to put on a party!

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The views from the Sea Wall were stunning. They even had a “Muscle Beach” cheer zone complete with inflatable dumbbells haha. Very clever! My leg muscles were feeling fatigued from being on my feet all day yesterday. Oh well, it was worth it! I ended up crossing the finish line in a time of 2:14:24. It was not my best, but it was certainly good practice for me to pace towards a 2:15 (my pace assignment for the upcoming Grete’s Great Gallop!) I also took lots of photos and soaked in the scenery. I ran in my Skechers Sonic shoes and they felt great–they absorbed most of the shock of the pavement because it’s a slightly more cushioned shoe. Thanks Skechers for being my sponsor!

The finish line was great–we had bottles of Zico coconut water awaiting us, and also goodies! Saje Wellness was a sponsor, and every runner got a set of runner’s massage oils (they were also available for sale in their store). We were also rewarded with a finisher medal (shaped like a mobius loop and choice of green, blue and purple) AND a sweet Lululemon finisher hat! The schwag we get for this race is neat–this was all in addition to the runner’s Lulu shorts mailed to you, a white messenger bag, and a water bottle. I was one happy gal.

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Finally, I capped off my race day with two unforgettable experiences: going to Capilano Suspension Bridge park and the SeaWheeze Sunset Festival.

I had a massive burger at Logger’s Grill post-race (in the park), and I clambered upon the famously wobbly Capilano Suspension Bridge on my wobbly legs. I also went on the amazing Cliffwalk–a new addition to the park that lets you walk along a cliff face.

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The Sunset Festival featured a performance by Capital Cities, yoga, local food vendors and a beer garden in Stanley Park. I lay on my yoga mat, enjoying the music and a burrito after a day of racing and walking. Thanks for an awesome time, Vancouver and Lululemon! I will be back!

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A Windy and Wild Beast of Burden Winter 50

We have had a heck of a winter here in NY this year! Maybe it’s because the last two winters here have been pretty mild, but this year’s polar vortex weather was rough for many runners. As I’m writing this, it is already spring, and I am so glad to be looking forward to the spring and summer (ultra) running season! I’m proud to say that this winter has been productive training-wise. I was inspired to sign up for the notoriously cold and snowy Beast of Burden Winter 50 in January, in no small part due to Shane and his crazy ultramarathons in the snow, but also due to my friends Otto, Violet, and Joe who were running the Winter 100.

First, some background about the race–the Beast of Burden has both a Summer and Winter version, and the Summer 100 was where I completed my first 100 miler back in August 2012. I had only great memories (it’s amazing how I can’t recall the pain) of the awesome people I met in Lockport, dedicated volunteers, and my friends Jim and Beth who hosted us for the weekend. If you do both the Winter 100 and the Summer 100 in the same calendar year, you get a Double Beast Buckle. See? I told you this race was crazy.

Our adventure began on 1/17, when Ken drove me and Violet up to Lockport, stopping at Rolando’s Diner in Binghamton for lunch.

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The place had prices from the 1970’s–seriously, eggs for like $3.50 or something ridiculous. The city itself was a bit gray and depressing–we enjoyed our omelets and were on our way.

We arrive at Lockport after a 7 hour drive from the city–thanks so much to Ken and Kino who were our crew/pacers for the weekend! We met up with some folks at DeFlippo’s, an awesome Italian restaurant/bar where most runners carbo-load before the race. I reunited with Jim and Beth, and also Andy Thomson, who was my compatriot during our first Summer 100 together. We had a large contingent from NYC: Kat and I were running the 50, and Otto (from NJ), Joe and Violet were running the 100. I was feeling nervous–I hate being cold and I was starting to question how I was going to stay warm through 12+ hours of running. I had a very reasonable starting goal of sub-15 hours, since I usually am not in the best shape in January (I blame the holidays), and I was going through all sorts of stress that didn’t enable me to train well in December. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make my goal even better, and I aimed for sub-13 hours. I made sure to eat lots of pasta, mozzarella sticks and garlic bread so I would have appropriate fuel!

The gang at DeFlippo's

The gang at DeFlippo’s

Several of my friends and I stayed at the Pease’s place, where I settled in comfortably for the night, packed my drop bags, and got a good nights’ sleep. I was ready for my adventure!

Some of the special gear I ended up using for this race included:

1) A Cold Avenger  classic fleece face protector. It it sort of like a balaclava for the lower half of your face, with a plastic cup that had vents for breathing. I don’t look nice with it on. In fact, I look like Bane or Darth Vader. This thing saved me though–I highly recommend using a Cold Avenger on your runs of 25F or colder! It’s really important to protect your face from windburn.

Me with a Cold Avenger on during BoB50

Me with a Cold Avenger on during BoB50

2) I used an Ultimate Direction hydration belt that I got from outdoor gear discount retailer TheClymb.com. I had heard good things about their water bottles, and I was not disappointed. It was ergonomic and had a special nozzle that prevented leakage, plus the belt itself didn’t bounce much during my run.

3) The usual GU energy gels, Vi Fuel (vegan gel), SaltStick salt tablets, and granola bars for sustenance

4) I also packed 3 different jackets/windbreakers, including a ski jacket for waiting around at the finish line. Layers were key, since the weather was expected to be 17F!

5) I brought Yaktrax snow spikes for traction, just in case there was snow on the ground.

6) Grabber Hand warmers–I put them in my gloves so my hands would stay warmer longer

7) I wore my trusty Skechers Nite Owl running shoes–I had broken them in the few weeks before, plus they were quite comfortable. They also glowed in the dark! (at least for a few hours)

Race day, 1/18

Ken drove us to the race, but before we did all that, we took a pre-race photo in front of Jim and Beth’s home:

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We were ready to get this show on the road! The start line at Wide Water’s Marina was only a 10-minute drive away, with plenty of parking. It was abuzz with activity as people picked up their race bibs and goodie bags. I must say, the goodie bag for this race was awesome–all runners got a white hooded sweatshirt with the badass race logo on it, plus a fuzzy Buffalo horn hat and fuzzy brown mittens. I can attest to the fact that the hat and mittens were super warm and made me feel awesome at the start.

Lisa at the start of the Winter 50

Lisa at the start of the Winter 50

The runners gathered at 9:50am for a brief pre-race meeting, where the mayor of Lockport made a few remarks and wished us luck, and we learned that the conditions on the course were snowy (1-2 inches) but not too bad. The race directors, Bob and Ken, introduced everyone to Sam Pasceri, who was the founder of this race and had come to see us off. Sam is an awesome athlete and his wife, Ginny, is an all-star volunteer and supporter!

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Start: 1 to 12.5 miles

At 10am, we were off! It was pretty cold, but not windy yet so it wasn’t bad. I was looking forward to seeing Kino and Ken at Mile 7 (Gasport aid station), where they would be volunteering for a bit before crewing and then pacing Violet. I ran with my Yaktrax and immediately regretted my decision, as they were useless on very light snow (1 inch, no ice). I ran a little bit slower due to the friction of the spikes on the ground, but I was relieved that I could hand them off to Ken since he was volunteering. The towpath was beautiful. The snow served a purpose–it made everything look prettier. I felt great when I hit the first aid station. There was Heed, pretzels, M&Ms and some other snacks. I made it quick, said hi to Kino and Ken, and headed out.

The next 5 miles before the turnaround at mile 12.5 (Middleport Aid station) always felt long. I started seeing some of the faster runners (like Joe!) turning back, and the early miles are nice because people are still happy and smiling. My body felt good, although it felt a bit weird to run with so many layers on (3 layers, with merino wool IceBreaker baselayer), a hydration belt, PLUS a Nathan hydration vest. I kept my hat and gloves on at all times.

Miles 12.6 to 25

I started incorporating walking breaks early. I still felt fresh, but I didn’t want to crash and burn, so I walked for 2-3 minutes for every 30 minutes I ran. I made sure to eat real food (PB&J, fruit, chips, granola bars and more), drink soup at aid stations, and drink lots of water. However, once it got to mile 16 or so, I started encountering a problem. The hydration pack in my Nathan hydration vest had a frozen tube and nozzle! Uh-oh. That meant I couldn’t properly access my water, unless I tried to drink from opening of the pack as if I was pouring a Ziploc bag of H2O into my mouth. That wasn’t good!

I was really glad I brought a back-up water bottle! It was around 20F most of the time, but at night it dropped to around 17F. It doesn’t take a genius to know that water will freeze. Luckily, the aid stations had heaters (the Middleport one was indoors, but the Gasport one was tented and had heaters) and great volunteers that would use hot water to try and defrost bottles. I drank from my Ultimate Direction water bottle normally at first, but then, I couldn’t suck the water out from the nozzle because a frozen ring had formed UNDER the cap. Crazy! I had to use my frozen hands to unscrew the bottle to drink from it. It didn’t seem like a big deal now, but the later it got in the race, the more difficult this became.

Another thing that drove me crazy was that my nose started running almost non-stop from mile 10 onward. It was super annoying, and it was just due to the cold.

I think my first 25 mile split was around 5:30, which was perfect.

 Miles 26-50

There were a lot of talented runners in this race–I felt cold, my face started burning from the wind, but some of the lead runners appeared to be unfazed by the elements. On the out-and-back portion, people were still smiling and yelling words of encouragement. I made sure to cheer especially loudly for the 100-mile runners and of course, my friends. I saw everybody–Otto, Joe, Violet, Kat….it was great.

The wind really picked up both times I came from Middleport (mile 12.5 and 37.5) back towards the start, just the way it was blowing. I had to close my eyes or throw on my sunglasses certain times because the wind was so horrible. I later learned that it was 20-30 mph winds for the 50 mile runners, and the 100-miler sustained 40-50 mph winds!! Imagine running a 50 mile race and an invisible hand is trying to push you back. That’s exactly what the wind felt like. Just brutal!!

The things that really lifted my spirits were:

1) Seeing Beth, Ken, and Kino at the aid stations

2) Hot lentil soup or chicken broth. There are no words for how heavenly this is in 17F.

3) Seeing the wooden pirate ship/slide that was next to the towpath.

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I was passing all the familiar landmarks, and I remember passing the bridges and a paper mill. It was dark and I had a headlamp at this point–I knew I was going to reach my goal of sub-13! My legs were getting tired, my nose was still running, and frankly I was ready to be done. It was one of the toughest races I have done in recent memory just due to being in the elements for a long time. I had a ton of respect for the 100-mile winter runners.

I approached the finish line and it was pretty quiet. The finish line was moved inside the tent because the awesome volunteers needed to stay warm. That was just fine by me! Who wouldn’t want to finish an ultra in a warm tent??

I crossed the finish in 12:40:05, and the race directors hung the medal around my neck. I was so so cold, and my first priority was warming up, then pictures next. There were chairs set up, a torpedo heater, and a table full of food to help the runners recover. The medal was pretty sweet!

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Ken was in the tent–he was helping Kat, who had finished earlier, and he handed me a bowl of mac and cheese.

It was the best post-race mac and cheese I have ever tasted. My life was complete.

I wanted to give a huge thank you to Ken and Kino for staying up pretty much all night to crew and volunteer for us. Also, big thanks to Beth and Jim for volunteering and hosting us. Thank you to Skechers Performance for sponsoring my footwear, and Team Refuel/Got Chocolate Milk? for my race gear and support! Finally, thanks to the race directors and ALL the volunteers for putting on a fantastic event.

After my race

Pretty soon after I finished, ate a bit of food, and defrosted, I got a ride back to the Pease’s place and took at 5-hour nap. I was determined to see my friends Otto, Ellen, and Violet finish their 100-milers (amazingly fast Joe finished around 4am for 2nd place overall). I saw Otto come through, and I saw Ellen, but I missed Violet heading out for her last loop.

I took a brief lunch break to see my cousin Heidi, who lived in the area with her husband. We got lunch at Panera and some coffee, and I finally ate real food. Yummy!

After all of that, I got to see Otto finish, and I got to see Violet finish her first 100-miler ever. It was pretty emotional seeing Violet at mile 98; I had a vantage point from the marina across the canal and I could see Ken and Kino coaxing her along and trying to block the wind. The wind had picked up to 40-50mph, and they even had to take the finish line tent down and move everything inside the public restroom building. It was insane!

It was amazing getting to see a bunch of 100-miler runners finish. I will never forget seeing everyone huddled outside the finish line, eyes squinting in the horizontal snow blowing across the canal, just to holler and cheer as Violet crossed the finish line with Kino and Ken behind her. The camaraderie and warmth amongst ultrarunners is a huge part of why I choose to do these things. When I think of the Beast of Burden Winter 50, I will not think so much about the cold, and the wind…what I will think about is how I spent an unforgettable weekend with a team of runners who will do anything for each other.

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West Coast fun: Rock ‘n’ Roll Halloween Half in LA

Happy new year to all! The end of 2013 was so full of activity that I am still processing it all. I am proud to say that I completed 34 races in 2013 and traveled to some pretty incredible places–London, Utah, California, and Florida. Speaking of California, I’m finally getting around to recap my trip to Los Angeles at the end of October. It was meant to be a “real” vacation for me–I joke that I usually don’t get any rest on my vacations because it’s usually centered around a race. Back in April 2013, I found an amazing flight deal to California for $199 round trip on Virgin America Airlines. They had a new route from Newark to LA and San Francisco, hence the jaw-dropping prices. I invited Shane to come with me, and my lovely friends Amy and Ben hosted us in Santa Monica.

We had a pretty full itinerary from the start, but we had three main goals:

1) Run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Halloween Half Marathon in LA (Thanks Team Refuel!)

2) Eat our way through Southern California and document everything

3) Road trip to San Diego to check out the zoo, Coronado, and Glorietta Bay Beach

Running on Glorietta Bay, California

Running on Glorietta Bay, California

For six glorious days, we pondered delicious burgers at Father’s Office , Umami Burger and In-n-Out. We added extra duck fat to our noodles at Daikokuya Ramen. We sampled fine brews at Elabrew Coffee, Primo Passo, and Demitasse. We ate brunch at Manhattan Beach Post and slurped ice cream at Sweet Rose Creamery. Finally, we had delicious seafood sandwiches at Supernatural Sandwiches in San Diego. I was almost glad that our vacation was only six days or else I would go broke from uncontrollable food-buying.

Here were my top 5 things that I ate on my trip to LA/San Diego:
1) Chimichanga at Manhattan Beach Post–deep fried deliciousness in a crispy wrap

2) The Neptune at Supernatural Sandwiches: (from their website) “Sauteed sweet local scallops, Crispy Smoked Bacon, buttery toasted bun, zesty enchanted sauce, spicy pyro aioli and fresh local greens”

3) Pumpkin Pie sundae at Sweet Rose Creamery: it came with a marshmallow ghost!

4) Shoyu Ramen at Daikokuya Ramen- get it “cotariu-style,” or with extra duck fat

5) The mocha at Elabrew Coffee–it was so good that we drove there twice in two days for coffee!

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In between all of this, we went sight-seeing at the Getty Villa and San Diego Zoo. I did a lot of walking around on the Santa Monica Promenade. The Getty Villa was a gorgeous museum of classical art–pretty much all of them are archaeological finds.

The San Diego Zoo was pricey but a must-see if you’re in the area. You get to see koalas, rhinos, and pandas all in one place! Shane and I also saw flamingos, giraffes, hippos, and Tasmanian devils. It’s $40 for admission, but the zoo is one of the best in the world and it’s well-maintained.

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The Rock ‘n’ Roll Halloween Half Marathon

The race was on 10/27 and it was going to be a massive race. There was a half marathon and also a “mini marathon” or 5K fun run. I was excited because it was my second West Coast half!

It was drizzling at the start, but luckily it mostly cleared up by the start except for some mist. I was aiming for under 1:59, but I needed to save my legs for the ING New York City Marathon the following week. I met up with my Team Refuel teammates Jeremy and Dani, and we wished each other luck! We had a special indoor VIP area at The Farm at LA Live, a nice little restaurant right near the start! They had breakfast items and coffee for us, yum! I grabbed a scrambled egg wrap and took a bite pre-race. It wasn’t my traditional breakfast but it was delicious!

The race started at LA Live, also known as the Staples Center. It was Shane’s first official half-marathon (although he had done marathons and ultramarathons before), so he was going to run a personal best no matter what. The race was pretty flat, except for a bridge on the course in the later half. There were cheer squads and lots of spectators to keep us motivated.

I paced my race pretty well, and managed to have fun along the way! I crossed the finish line in 1:55:11 with a jump and a smile on my face. It was great seeing all the costumes on the course! I drank chocolate milk after the race and felt great. I gave it my best effort in California and still managed to sightsee afterwards. Here were my results:

Net time: 1:55:11

Overall: 1169/7478

Gender: 285/4349

Division: 65/820

I’d say that I earned the right to eat all that food. Thanks, Team Refuel, for the opportunity to race! Also, thanks to Amy and Ben for being awesome hosts on this trip. See you later, California!

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Rocking the Ragnar DC and RnR Brooklyn 10K

October was a pretty intense but fun month of running after my Bear 100 experience. I’m happy to say that I managed to run a relay race and a 10K amidst my ultramarathon adventures! I would hate to lose all my speed, so doing shorter races keeps me on my toes.

My friend Diane invited me to be a part of her Ragnar Relay DC team for the third year, and I was happy to be part of Van 1 once again! I made my way down to DC on late Thursday, then it was up bright and early on Friday, October 4th to run in the relay! Our name was Team A.M.O.R.E. (A Mismatch of Running Enthusiasts), and we were determined to defend our title of Best Decorated Van for the 3rd year in a row! Led by captain Diane, we decorated every inch of our van with funny caricatures and quotes.

Van 1 of Team A.M.O.R.E

Van 1 of Team A.M.O.R.E

The relay went from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC and teams had 36 hours to finish. This year was interesting, because three legs were eliminated due to the government shutdown (since the 3 relay legs ran through federal land)! What a bummer! I was just glad that the relay wasn’t cancelled entirely. There were a lot of funny signs, such as one that said “You run better than our government.” I ran 3 legs totaling about 15.8 miles, and this year I had the pleasure of running the toughest leg, a dusty 7.8 miles that had a total elevation gain of 1247 ft and elevation loss of 1024 ft! It was a doozy for my sore legs that ran 61 miles a mere 6 days before, but my cheering teammates pulled me through. I think I ran it in 1:24 or so, slower than expected but not bad.

At the end of the leg, a surprise was waiting for us: each leg 3 runner got a belt buckle award! It was a nice touch and I will sport mine proudly. The weather was very warm for this relay–it was high 80s and humid, and some parts the heat index reached 99F! It was very unusual for October.

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My favorite part of the race is always the South Mountain Creamery, which stays open in the wee hours of the night to welcome runners with ice cold chocolate milk and a full dairy bar and BBQ for sale. Yum!! I got the raspberry ice cream and a nice half-gallon of chocolate milk in a glass jug. I kept it in our cooler as my recovery beverage. Delicious! I sported my Team Refuel gear throughout the race too.

Our team made it through in 180th place out of 291 teams. For us, it’s not about time but the camaraderie, and we still did well! Our time was 29:24:36 after accounting for driving time through the legs that were eliminated, and this year our relay was a bit shorter than 170 miles, approximately.

I wanted to thank my teammates and our lovely volunteers (Pearl, Art and Larry) for making this relay possible! Also, special thanks to Diane for being super organized and for putting a lot of legwork into our team!

It was really special finishing together in National Harbor in DC. We also found out a few days later that we won for Best Decorated Van for the third year in a row! Go Team A.M.O.R.E.!

Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn 10K

The following weekend after the Ragnar DC, I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn 10K on behalf of Team Refuel! It was awesome to race with my teammates Anthony and Dani, and we wished each other luck at the start. I also got a chance to run with Diane, Deb and their friend Lauren who came up from Virginia. The night before, we had a carbo-loading dinner at Ganso Ramen in Brooklyn. They had a solid Pork Tonkotsu ramen and delicious green tea matcha ice cream. It’s a hidden gem in a neighborhood not usually known for ethnic food!

I went to the race expo two days before at the Metropolitan Pavilion and had a lot of fun. I got some freebies, took a photo in the photo booth, and picked up my VIP wristband. Thanks Team Refuel for the VIP treatment! The Metropolitan Pavilion was a good venue for packet pick-up, but it was indoors only for one day. I heard from Diane that on Friday (second day), the expo was outdoors and most vendors were not present, just the registration tables. Maybe this is something they can improve for next year.

On race day, I met up with my team at the VIP tent at the Nethermead in Prospect Park. It was very convenient to get there and there were lots of excited runners milling about. The VIP tent had catered food, tables and chairs, magazines, a bar for post-race, and separate bathrooms. Sweet! At 7:30am, the race started and I was feeling good despite all the racing I’ve done the past two weeks. I decided to push the pace as we ran by Grand Army Plaza, and my body responded well to it.

I knew I wasn’t going to PR (my PR is 49:55), but I was aiming for sub-53:00. I had to actually run the Atlantic City Marathon the following day, so I left some energy in the tank! I finished in a time of 52:52, which was good for top 8.5% of females overall! Here were my stats:

Finish time: 52:52 (8:31 pace)

Overall: 692/4135,   Gender: 232/2731,  Age: 79/702

I got a photo with the Nesquik bunny and recovered with some chocolate milk and croissants. It was a great race! Thank you Team Refuel for sponsoring me! After that, it was off to work, then onto a bus to New Jersey for the Atlantic City Marathon! Stay tuned for a post about my run along the boardwalk!


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Ganso Ramen

Ganso Ramen


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Hot weather running: North Face DC 50K

June was one of my busiest racing months, and also turned out to be a very gratifying month as I got to volunteer and see many of my running friends.

I ended up running the New York Mini 10K the second week of June, then the Portugal Day 5-miler on Father’s Day, and volunteering at the Back on My Feet Birthday Bash, all of which I’ll write about soon! Before all of that, I ran my 2nd ultra in two weeks, the North Face DC 50K.

On May 31, I made a quick trip to Burke, VA to see my friend Diane and run the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K with Shane. In the days before the race, the forecasts indicated temperatures of 90F and higher. Ouch! I don’t do well running in the heat, but that took some of the pressure off because I had just run a 50-miler (and PR’ed) the week before! I knew the heat would force me to run slower, which was fine by me.

Diane was doing the team relay, and kindly hosted us before our 5am wake up call for the 7am start on Saturday, June 1. Diane had already picked up our bibs so we didn’t have to worry about that. Thanks, Diane! I was a bit tired at the start, but once we started lining up I got excited about running on trails again. I ran the 50-miler and loved it last year.

waiting for the bus to Algonkian National Park

waiting for the bus to Algonkian State Park

Me and Shane at the start

Me and Shane at the start

This year, they were screenprinting North Face tech shirts again, and SmartWool was a sponsor so we all got SmartWool running socks in our race packets. I love their socks–I run in them a lot during marathons and ultras.

Thanks once again to Team Refuel and Got Chocolate Milk? for sponsoring me for this race!

At 7am, the race started, and I was already sweating at the very beginning. It was mostly singletrack trail, and the course was very packed with about 450 starters for the 50K. My friends who were running the 50-miler already started at 5am! I was looking forward to seeing them at the turnaround points. Shane ran with me for about 2.5 hours, and I was glad for the company because I actually ran out of water between the Frazier and Great Falls stations (between miles 7-13), and he gave me some! I drink a ton of water regardless but it was even more apparent on this hot day. I carried a handheld bottle, and while it was more comfortable than a Camelbak, it didn’t carry enough fluids.

I felt pretty good for the first portion of the race, and it was really cool seeing Charlie Engel (of “Running the Sahara” documentary fame) volunteering at one of the aid stations.

Here were the pros and cons running through my head during the race:

Pros:

-fantastic course, not too technical but with just enough hills to keep it interesting.

-a bunch of my friends were running!

– good race schwag and nice medal

Cons:

–Extremely hot weather–temperatures reached 95F

– Aid station staples have changed since last year–they switched over from Nuun (good) to Clif Shot electrolyte brew (tastes like medicine), and potatoes were uncooked! They were just dipped in water! They also didn’t have as much fruit as in previous years (I remembered nectarines and oranges but I just recall bananas this year). Most upsetting for me was that only one aid station had PB&J sandwiches, which I depend on. They did have Clif bars, but those are too heavy for my stomach.

Back to the course–my favorite part is a rocky climb up Great Falls, which offers a spectacular view of the Potomac River. It is a hard section–50K people do it once, but 50-milers have to do this section 3 times.

As the sun got higher in the mid-afternoon, I started to feel more and more fatigued. Thankfully, about 75% of the course was shaded so I was grateful for that.

Representing Team Refuel!

Representing Team Refuel

View of the Potomac River during the 50K

View of the Potomac River during the 50K

I saw Jessica, Paul, Mary, Hideki, Keila, Joe and Stephen all running the 50-miler. It was great cheering them on.

The last 10 miles were really tough–my glycogen stores were depleted at this point and it was the hottest part of the day. I rationed my water (which was unfortunate, you should be able to drink as much as you want) because Shane was no longer running with me and I had no back-up plan if I ran out of water. I saw a bunch of people stopped by the side of the trail, dehydrated. I asked if they were ok and they just waved me on.

The funniest thing I heard during the race was a comment from a fellow park-goer: “Wow, these people look like they’re in the Hunger Games!” Haha…we did look pretty haggard.

I also saw fellow Team Refuel member Evy Gonzales doing the 26.2! It was great seeing a familiar face.

The last 5 miles I pushed hard and barely stopped. I just wanted to reach the finish line as soon as possible, and even though I was sweating I felt like I was ok in terms of energy stores. I also had to rush back and catch the 6pm bus back to NYC.

As I approached the finish line,

I thought about Diane, Shane, and all my friends back home who thought I was crazy for running in this heat. I had to agree with them. I was SO close to earning a sub-7:00 finish, a personal best for a trail 50K (previous best was 8:45 for the Bear Mountain 50K).

I crossed the finish in a time of 6:59:37!

Overall, I was 195/430 finishers, 10/32 in the F20-29 age group, and 50/166 out of all females. I was really happy with my performance in the wilting heat.

As soon as I finished, Shane found me at the finish line, and I congratulated Keila, who had just finished an amazing 3rd place in the 50-miler. Shane made me lie down in the shade and helped me with my shoes and socks so my feet could breathe. I try to never lie down after a race, and I’ve only done it twice before, after a VERY hot Mad Marathon in Vermont in July (temps in the 80s) and the Chicago Marathon in 2007 (88F temps). My body was just spent.

After I recuperated, I found Diane and friends with their team in the shade. I also enjoyed some free coconut milk ice cream by one of the sponsors, So Delicious ice cream. It was pretty good! They were also giving out a free Klean Kanteen metal water bottle, which made my day. Best of all, there was Hawaiian-style shaved ice for sale at the finish, and I forked over the $4 for my big heaping cup of ice. It was just what I needed!

Lisa post-finish

Lisa post-finish

Lisa with her DC/VA friends

Lisa with her DC/VA friends

So Delicious Coconut Milk  ice cream post-race, yum!

So Delicious Coconut Milk ice cream post-race, yum!

Lisa and a cold post-race treat

Lisa and a cold post-race treat

I have to thank Diane’s dad for helping me and Shane get back safely to Union Station post-race to catch the bus back to NYC. He was a life saver. Shane and I got some Thai food on the way back and brought it onto the bus. Most importantly, we got ice-cold Thai iced teas, which I had been craving the entire race! I was just thankful that all my friends raced safely in the heat. Hot weather running is no joke!


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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