Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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Great Cranberry Island 50K–best race forever! 7/27/13

Last year, one of my favorite summer memories was running the Great Cranberry Island 50K in Maine with my friends. This year, I was lucky enough to be one of the 150 people selected to run the final edition of this race (“Best Race Forever” was the tagline) in one of my favorite places in the world! Race Director Gary Allen wanted to end the race on a high note, since he was hosting the RRCA National 50K championships.

I drove out to Maine with Shane’s family (I didn’t do the driving, since I’m a city girl…), and we stayed in Bar Harbor the night before the race. It was a long drive, about 7 hours from Central Massachusetts. We stopped along the way at my favorite spot from last year, Fishermen’s Grill  in Portland for lunch. There was a long line this time, since people apparently came far and wide for their massive lobster rolls. Was it worth the wait? Emphatically, yes!

Fishermen's Grill in Portland, ME

Fishermen’s Grill in Portland, ME

lobster roll, Maine style

lobster roll, Maine style

I ordered the New England clam chowder (just the right amount of flavor and salt, with massive chunks of clam) and the lobster roll. The lobster roll was $15.95 market price for a “mini,” which was 1.25 pounds of lobster instead of 1.5 pounds of lobster. There was nothing mini about it. The lobster was so fresh and flavorful I could practically taste the ocean. I will never look at an NYC lobster roll the same way again–I have been spoiled for life.

For pre-race dinner the night before, Shane and I went to an Italian spot called Mama DiMatteo’s near Main Street. We had the all-you-can-eat pasta (of which I only had a plateful, haha) with meatballs. It was pretty good; I’ve had better, but it was perfect for carbo loading. I also tried the panna cotta with blueberry sauce. The panna cotta was a bit firm (more like cream cheese and less like flan) but the sauce was good.

The best part of our food tasting in Bar Harbor was, hands down, Mount Desert Island Ice Cream co. It has a really cool logo and even from the flavor list you can see it was a legit ice cream shop. They had really cool flavors like coconut, salted caramel, and flavor combos that include cookie crumbs. Tasty! I would give it 5 out of 5 stars–that’s how good it was. There was even a photo of Obama visiting the shop, but that wasn’t the only reason why it was good.

I was full of ice cream, lobster rolls, and pasta. I was ready for my 50K!

The race started at 11:30am on 7/27, which allowed runners more time to get to the ferry in Northeast Harbor. The only way to get to Great Cranberry Island (GCI) was via ferry from two locations off of Mt. Desert Island. We opted for the 9am ferry, which would give us plenty of time but allowed us to sleep after an exhausting car trip. Shane’s family was taking a later ferry to come and cheer.

We lugged our bags, tent, and camping gear onto the dock, and luckily the ferry came as scheduled. I ran into my friends Kristen L and Kristen P on the boat, and it was great seeing them because we were both GCI 50K veterans from 2012!

Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream

Mount Desert Island Ice Cream

The ferry ride over was gorgeous and relaxing. The weather felt perfect–we were going to have an awesome day.

We got to the island around 9:40am, and awesome locals helped us drive our luggage 3/4 mile up the road to the campsite. The GCI 50K is famous for its post-race lobster boil and camping, and if you skip out you miss a big part of the race experience.

Shane and I picked up our packets at the fire station, and I ran into one of the most inspiring Marathon Maniacs, elite runner Leah Thorvilson from Little Rock, AR. I had met her at the 2011 Little Rock Marathon and she has won numerous marathons!

The swag bags were nice–they had a New Balance tech shirt, a commemorative mini lobster claw pin (a mini version of the medal), a metal water bottle, and some Clif bar and gel samples. We pitched our tent on the field behind the community center and got ready for the race.

There were many noteworthy ultrarunners at this race, and I knew it would be awesome running among them. I already mentioned Leah, and the other person was Leigh Schmitt, the course record-holder at VT100. My personal goal was to beat my time from last year (6:10:06) and there’s no better inspiration than to avoid being lapped too many times by the elite runners!

I was also running in my Team Refuel jersey, and I had my X-1 headphones from my new sponsor, X-1 Audio. I knew I had to represent well! I needed my headphones for this race, since we would be doing 16 laps of the 2-mile stretch of road running down the full length of the island. I was using the X-1 Flex All sport waterproof headphones, which were small and lightweight, and I could stash them in my waist pack if I needed a break from using them.  I would still cheer on my fellow runners, but the music would be a huge motivation for me.

Great Cranberry Island dock

Great Cranberry Island dock

1095046_10101148542957505_428294800_nAfter the national anthem was played by Mary Ropp (race co-director), we were off! Shane and I ran the first mile together, then I told him to go ahead without me, since I knew I would see him many more times on the out-and-back course. It was great seeing my friends Kathy, Dave, Anna, Hideki, Mary, Julia, Kristen P and Kristen L out on the course. I also met Jennifer from Runner’s World and saw many other Maniacs. When the race progressed, I started talking less and started to wave and smile more. I needed to conserve energy!

The race course is beautiful, with views of the mountains of Acadia National Park and quaint houses, but it is repetitive. The rolling hills also seem to get steeper with every repeat. The best part of the GCI 50K is the people. The fellow runners are friendly, the locals set up their own (unofficial) aid stations with boiled potatoes, cookies, and water, and they are a godsend. The official aid stations were staffed by awesome volunteers in bright pink shirts, and they told you that you looked great even when you felt your worst. At the start/finish line, there was also room for drop bags, so I kept one full of bananas, gels and Clif Bars, just in case. There was cola and Gatorade, and everything was kept ice cold. The support was fantastic!

I felt pretty good at the beginning, but I was a little frazzled when the gun went off because I was getting ready for the race up until the last minute. I relaxed after the first lap though, and I told myself to be patient and save some energy. Despite the nice weather, the sun was still wearing on me, and so I concentrated on my form and eating enough foods. Shane’s family reached the island after my 3rd lap, and by then Shane was already 2 miles ahead of me. It was relief to see them cheering–it helped a lot. I also took advantage of the potatoes and cookies at the aid stations.

The race director also puts everyone’s name on a personal laminated sign along the course, along with funny and inspirational quotes. That helped keep me entertained.

View of Acadia National Park

View of Acadia National Park

My marathon split was around 4:55, so I knew that I was on track to break my PR. The 2nd to last lap was the hardest, because so many people were finishing up and I still had one lap to go!

I took down my name plaque/sign and ran with it the last mile. My legs were super tired from pounding the pavement and I willed them to go faster. I had a smile on my face, because at that point I knew I was going to run a PR! I finished in 5:53:38, 17 minutes faster than last year. I was stoked! I have definitely earned my lobster (in medal form and boiled form). I congratulated Shane on his PR as well, and I made sure to pick up my finisher’s granite rock along with my medal! It was a great day with awesome racing conditions.

The race provides rustic showers on the campground, and it was a nice amenity. Before that, though, Shane and I decided to walk to the dock and dunk into the Atlantic Ocean. The water was freezing so I only went in partway, but Shane decided to swim a couple hundred feet out. Yeah, no big deal. It was a good cool-down, at least?

Maniacs at the start

Maniacs at the start

GCI 50K finishers

GCI 50K finishers

The medal

The medal

As the sun set, the bonfire got started, the lobsters were cooked in waves, and the bugs came out in full force.

Champions' rocks

Champions’ rocks

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The only bad thing about Maine is the mosquitoes. The little buggers are vicious. I got bit through layers of clothing! However, I had such a good day that I blocked out the pain.

Each runner was served a boiled lobster with butter, corn, and everyone gathered around the bonfire to chat. There was an awards ceremony, and one of the runners, Doug, served as the DJ. It was a perfect night and you could see the stars very clearly. Although my body was tired, my mind was in awe of the beauty of this island. The people are what make it special.

The next morning, we enjoyed a breakfast put on by the Ladies’ Aid Society, strolled on the main road to the Whale’s Rib gift shop (shopped for souvenirs), and chatted with a runner from Paris  at the Cranberry General Store.  I almost didn’t want to board the ferry to leave so soon!

Thanks to Gary Allen and Mary Ropp for putting on such a special race. Thanks to all the volunteers, Shane’s family, and all the spectators for cheering! It truly is the best race forever, and I was glad to be a part of it.


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Great Cranberry Island 50K, Part 2

Playing in the waters off of Great Cranberry Island

We stayed in the Red House on Great Cranberry Island, which made race morning super convenient. The island is so small that houses are known by their family’s names and colors, and there were no numbers! This made finding our house in the dark somewhat challenging the night before. I woke up feeling rested and ready to tackle the day.

The race director made laminated signs with every runner’s name and tacked them up on telephone poles all along the race course. What a nice personal touch! We were allowed to keep them afterwards. Benny and I had fun trying to find all the names we knew.

Marathon Maniac group pic!

Red house photo!

We headed to the start line and took tons of photos. We had a group shot of the Marathon Maniacs, our house ladies (above), and Maniacs with Gary Allen the race director and head of Crow Athletics. CAW!
After the rendition of the national anthem, we were off! There were 100 of us, plus lots of volunteers and good folks that live on the island and set up their own water stations for us! The scenery was pretty, but we passed it LOTS of times. We started with a 5K out-and-back, then did another 7 circuits of the island (4 mile loops on a 2-mile long road). It was sunny but not TOO hot, although a shortage of shade didn’t help.

I enjoyed seeing my friends out on the course many times. I remembered being thankful for Coca Cola and boiled potatoes served at the aid stations. I was struggling a bit, having already raced an ultra the week before. I just tried to enjoy the experience. I ran with my Oakley sunglasses, which were mostly comfortable but they fogged up at times due to the heat.

Me without my trademark smile due to the heat and pain in my legs

I was so afraid of losing count of my laps! Luckily, there was someone sitting at the finish line who told me when I  had three laps left, so my addled brain at least let me know when I was almost finished. There was also a marathon split, USATF certified so people could use it as a BQ! (I didn’t, but our housemate Dave Holmen did!) My last thoughts before I reached the finish were–“Ouch, this hurts,” and “Why is that camera following me as I’m grimacing?” The official photog, Kevin Morris (who was excellent–he photographed the Olympic T&F Trials), took a good photo of my pained face in the final stretch while riding a golf cart. I didn’t post it here, but you can find it on his website.

So the sweet, sweet reward of finishing was an awesome lobster claw belt buckle/medal, and a pink granite rock from Great Cranberry Island. It’s pretty! I waited at the finish for a bit and saw Amanda Lewis (our housemate) and other Maniacs cross the line. I also ate about four slices of the best watermelon ever to help me cool down.

Me and Pascal at the finish line. It was his first ultra!

Then, it was back “home” to shower and then head out to the famous lobster boil and post-race party in a grassy field by the finish. Every finisher got a whole boiled lobster, corn on the cob, and beer. In case you can’t tell from the photo, it was one of the best dinners of my life.

Me and Jackie enjoying our post-race lobster (Photo from Amanda Lewis)

We sat on logs, enjoyed each other’s company, enjoyed s’mores that Becky brought (thanks Becky!), and watched the sun set. I had to leave before the fireworks because I was being eaten by mosquitoes, but yes, there were fireworks! What a perfect end to the day.

The next morning, we packed up and headed to the dock to play around in the water. Instant ice bath for our feet! I also took a Dave Mari-inspired photo of my lobster medal. He took a great shot of his last year.

Lobster medal with a view of the dock in the background

If you ever get the chance to run this very special race, do it! Thanks to Jackie and my fellow Maniacs for being part of an excellent weekend!


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Looking ahead and Great Cranberry Island 50K, Part 1

As I look back on an awesome year of racing, I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to run in some of the most beautiful parts of the world. Some of my favorites were the Tokyo Marathon, The Miami Marathon, The Big Sur Marathon, The Toronto Goodlife Fitness Marathon, and the Great Cranberry Island 50K. I feel like each of those races deserves a proper blog post with photos, so I’ll post about some of them in the next few weeks in reverse chronological order.

My next three big races are the Sea Wheeze (aka the Lululemon Half Marathon) this weekend in Vancouver, the Beast of Burden Summer 100, and the Ragnar Relay Washington, DC. I’m pretty nervous about the 100-miler. Who goes out and runs 100 miles for fun? I feel mentally prepared but I feel like my body (namely my feet) may betray me. The longest I’ve ever run is 76.1 miles in 24 hours for the Stroehmann Back on my Feet 20in24 race, and I’ve done some other ultras since then. In the meantime, I am looking forward to spending this weekend with my west coast friend (and sorority sister) Amy, just being girly and geeking out to the plethora of Lululemon Athletica products that will surely be waiting for us at the expo. Oh, and the inevitable foodie-ing before and after the race shall be epic.

 Here goes my first race recap:

 Marathon #27 (Ultra #7): The Great Cranberry Island 50K—Cranberry Isles, Maine (Part 1)

Getting to the starting line of this race was a special journey. It all started with my friend Jackie, who ran this race last year on the same day my friends Steve, Michelle and I ran the 20in24 Lone Ranger race. She had rented a house with some other members of the Marathon Maniacs club on this remote island off the coast of Mount Desert Island and took the most spectacular jumping photos. She also mentioned that there was a whole boiled lobster and a belt buckle for every finisher. I was sold.

 

The 2012 edition of the race held a lottery because of its growing popularity—I entered the lottery in December and was informed in February that I was in. Hooray! I knew this was going to be unlike any other race I’ve run. The only thing nagging me was that I had monster back-to-back weekends of racing ultras. I had to do the 24-hour race in Philly again (with the goal of running 59 miles) and then bookend that with an additional 31 miles on a hilly, out-and-back course seven days later. Yes, I am young and foolish. I somehow convinced myself that was a good idea. I managed to finish 59.1 miles in 17:24 for the 20in24 race on 7/14/12, and bowed out early due to aching metatarsals that changed my running form. I had to save my feet for the 50K, and it turned out to be a good decision.

 

Jackie and her friend Caitlin showed up at the crack of dawn to pick up myself and Becky from Becky’s apartment. It is a 9-hour drive from NYC to Bar Harbor, ME, but we stopped for lobster rolls in Portland, ME. Eating good food was our top priority and it was definitely worth the hour we stopped. I had the biggest lobster roll of my life from Fisherman’s Grill. It looked like a typical crab shack but had nearly perfect reviews on Yelp. We were not disappointed. I got the combo, which included the roll and a delicious, creamy bowl of clam chowder. Now I know why this place is featured in Adam Richman’s book (of Man vs. Food fame)!

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This is why I run.

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Next, we stopped at Cranberry Island Kitchen for some yummy whoopee pies, lobster cookies, and Moxie soda. I liked the lemon flavored whoopee with lime crème filling.

Our next stop was Acadia National Park, which I was super excited about. We took many, many jumping pictures.

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We also got to see a mock-up of the Great Cranberry Island 2-mile road where we’d be running back and forth 16 times.

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Our group met up with Paul, Talisa, Steven and Benny, and we dipped our feet in the ice-cold Atlantic Ocean at Sand Beach (yes, original name, I know). We did the 20-mile drive, including a stop at Cadillac Mountain to watch the late afternoon sunlight fade. We had dinner at West Street Café in Bar Harbor—I had the spicy pasta puttanesca with shrimp, lobster bisque, and blueberry soda!

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We rented the Red House on Great Cranberry Island. There are no hotels nor bed and breakfasts on the island, so some locals rent out their houses for the summer season. There was also rustic camping but since I am a buffet for mosquitoes, I was glad not to be camping out. The entire island is only two miles long by one mile wide, and it is a special place where all the locals know each other. There is no police department and no hospital, just a volunteer fire department, one gift shop, a general store and two cafes. Imagine that!! On the morning of the race, Benny and I got up early to walk around and picked up our race packets. We met up in the morning with some of our house mates, including Dave, Amanda, and Pascal. We saw the welcome banner hanging over the dock and grabbed breakfast sandwiches at the Great Cranberry General Store. The race packets were awesome, including a Nike gray tech shirt, our lobster dinner tickets, and personalized race bibs. We also got a glimpse of the beautiful lobster claw medal we would be running for! Stay tuned for part two…

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Wow we’re really here!

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