Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon recap

I was super excited to represent Team Refuel at the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon on 2/24/13! Any excuse to fly down to New Orleans is a good one! I knew that I was going to indulge in some good ol’ Cajun food and fried chicken, but I wanted to do well in the half marathon to test my fitness. It was definitely a balancing act.

Leftover Mardi Gras decorations on houses

Leftover Mardi Gras decorations on houses

I arrived late Friday night so I could pick up my packet at the expo on Saturday. But first things first, my friend Steven and I headed to Willie Mae’s Scotch House for the best fried chicken in America (according to the Travel Channel and Food Network).

Waiting for fried chicken at Willie Mae's

Waiting for fried chicken at Willie Mae’s

There were a bunch of people waiting for their fried chicken at 11am when we got there. Unfortunately, we couldn’t eat in the dining room because there were plumbing problems, and all orders were packed to go. No big deal–we enjoyed our lunch in the car! I ordered the white meat chicken with buttered beans and rice. It was a steal at $13.

My pre-race meal: fried chicken at WIllie Mae's the day before . SO good. Top three fried chicken ever.

My pre-race meal: fried chicken at WIllie Mae’s the day before . SO good. Top three fried chicken ever.

The verdict? Definitely worth the trip to Treme and it was the top 3 best fried chicken I’ve ever had. The only other fried chicken comparable to it was at Coop’s Place (NOLA) and The Redhead (NYC). I’ll have to come back next time!

Off we went to the expo. I picked up my packet and met up with fellow Team Refuel members Jesus and Jeremy who also happened to be at the Got Chocolate Milk? booth at the same time. Picture time!

Me and Jesus S. Go Team Refuel!

Me and Jesus S. Go Team Refuel!

I love the Cavalcade of Curiosities display by Brooks!

I love the Cavalcade of Curiosities display by Brooks!

The expo was a bit of a madhouse–I got a free t-shirt as a door prize from Brooks’ “Cavalcade of Curiosities,” some Powerbar Fruit packet samples, but not much else. I missed meeting Kara Goucher, but I did get to see my NYC friends (and fellow Kara fans) Benny, Carol and Keila at the expo. Good luck everyone!

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Before I headed to my pre-race meal at Domenica, I sat down to hear a chat between running greats Frank Shorter (gold medalist in the Munich Olympic marathon) and Rod Dixon (past NYC Marathon champion). I got photos with them afterwards!

Me and Frank Shorter

Me and Frank Shorter

Me and Rod Dixon

Me and Rod Dixon

At around 4:30pm, I headed to my early dinner reservation at Domenica. I ate super early for two reasons: 1) it was the only reservation I could get last minute due to the gobs of people in town, 2) Happy hour lasts until 6pm and pizzas and beer are 50% off! Good to know. I came here last year and was very impressed by the food and modern ambience, so I wanted to come back.

This time, my friend and I ordered the wild mushroom and bacon pizza with farm egg (yum) and the squid ink tagliolini with blue crab meat and lemon sauce. The tagliolini was buttery and oily but sooo good!

Domenica's squid ink tagliolini

Domenica’s squid ink tagliolini

Wild mushroom and bacon pizza with farm egg

Wild mushroom and bacon pizza with farm egg

Admittedly, I didn’t do too much research this time around about food. Next time, I would love to try a new place like Jacques-imo’s, the Upperline restaurant, and/or Cochon. There’s just too many good places to eat. There’s also super pricey options like Galatoire’s brunch, Antoine’s and Commander’s Palace…maybe in a few more years haha. I’m just happy eating good food without breaking the bank!

Race Day– Sunday 2/24

I woke up super early and excited to run! I was representing Team Refuel and I wanted to get there early to meet my friends. I also had access to the VIP tent so I wanted to take advantage of that too.

Steven was a good sport and dropped me off at the start line, bright and early at 6:00am (race started at 7:00). I chatted with some Team Refuel members, including Jeremy and George, and relaxed in the VIP area where they had muffins, bananas, and private bathrooms for us. These things make a difference when you’re in a rush! I also met up with my Aussie friends Jane and Trent, who I haven’t seen since the 2012 Tokyo Marathon!

Jane, Trent and myself

Jane, Trent and myself

There were a lot of notable elite athletes running the half. I didn’t realize it at the time I signed up for the half-marathon; normally I opt for the longer distance, but I ran the full marathon last year and got Louisiana as a state in my 50 states quest. I wanted to be able to sightsee and enjoy the food without worrying about 26.2 miles this time. Mo Farah, Meseret Defar, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher were some of the boldface names running in the half marathon. I didn’t see them in the VIP tent at the start, but I told myself that I’d run fast enough to at least catch them post-finish in the VIP tent! Good motivation! Usually elite runners are more than happy to greet fans post-competition, especially if they had a good day.

The course was flat and fast, and ran through the most interesting parts of New Orleans. I ran a PR here one year and wanted to do myself proud again. Secretly I was aiming for a 1:55, but it was still early in the season and I wasn’t in peak shape yet.

During the race, I didn’t feel 100% myself. Then, I remembered that I had oily tagliolini and fried chicken for fuel. That was probably it. I could have regretted it but I didn’t–just gritted my teeth and pressed on.

The weather was perfect–nice and cool but not windy. I remembered wishing I had my sunglasses on as we ran down St. Charles Ave. The out-and-back course allowed us to spot the elite athletes, so that was cool to watch. Mo was running like a champ, and Shalane and Meseret were neck-and-neck in the women’s race.

I was actually on pace to run a PR for the first 7-8 miles of the race, then I bonked and ran out of gas. As we ran through the French Quarter in the final miles, I told myself to hold on. I still wanted to finish under 2:00, fried chicken in my stomach or not. We enter City Park and I know I’m almost done. My legs were fatigued but I urged them on. As I crossed the finish line, the announcer gave me a Team Refuel shout out! I vaguely remember him saying “Look at her sprint it in! Must be the chocolate milk!” As a rule, I always try to sprint it in to the finish. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t run hard enough. It just means that I want to finish strong.

Here were my results:

Net time: 1:58:36 (9:03 pace)

Overall: 1983/9270

Gender: 760/5867

Age group: 159/985

finisher

I was pretty pleased with my placing, especially because I placed in the top 13% of women. Sweet! It turns out that I was the first Team Refuel member to finish the half marathon as well. A Team Refuel rep, Lindsey, greeted me at the finish with encouragement and ice cold chocolate milk. It was nice to see a smiling face at the end!

I met up with Jeremy (also on Team Refuel) at the VIP tent, and we chatted away while waiting for our respective friends. There was hot food like pasta, muffalettas, and po’ boys in the tent. There were beignets and yogurt cups too! As if that weren’t enough, you could get a mimosa and we had our own private supply of chocolate milk. So awesome!

Best of all, the elite athletes were chilling in the same space while they waited for the awards ceremony. I was really excited about meeting them, but I especially wanted to meet Mo. He became a household name since he won gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m in the London Olympics. He also won the half-marathon in a sick time of 1:00:59!

Me and Mo Farah

Me and Mo Farah–he won in 1:00:59!

Me and Kara Goucher

Me and Kara Goucher

Kara Goucher was so funny and sweet. Even though I’ve met her multiple times, I always make an effort to say hello if she’s doing an appearance. She asked her agent if she had spinach in her teeth before taking a photo with me, haha.

Me and Shalane Flanagan

Me and Shalane Flanagan

Me and my teammate Jeremy. Soon he'll be starring in a Got Chocolate Milk? ad!

Me and my teammate Jeremy. Soon he’ll be starring in a Got Chocolate Milk? ad!

Me and Meseret Defar, women's champ

Me and Meseret Defar, women’s champ

It was a great day. It’s my third time running this race in New Orleans and I feel blessed that Team Refuel sponsored my race entry this year. Thanks Team Refuel! I really enjoyed meeting teammates from different geographical areas. Everyone is really nice.

Finally, you’d think I was able to rest and take a nap after all that running, but I went sightseeing and eating instead. I met up with friends at Oceana for some gumbo. I had previously had an illy coffee and a strawberry and Nutella crepe at Merchants cafe, so that was my brunch. We also walked around in the French Quarter, where I did some souvenir shopping and explored the French Market a bit more.

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Nice hat!

Nice hat!

For dinner, Steven and I met up again and we headed to Coop’s Place for some more delicious fried chicken. They use an awesome spice/pepper blend for their chicken and I can’t resist going here for the third time! The chicken comes with jambalaya too. I wish I could eat like this more often.

Fried chicken and jambalaya at Coop's Place

Fried chicken and jambalaya at Coop’s Place

It started raining, and after dinner we headed to Cafe du Monde for their famous beignets and chicory coffee. We tried going yesterday at 11am but the line was ridiculous. At 8pm on a Sunday, we sat down right away. I missed out on going to Cafe du Monde last year so I made up for lost time!

Beignets at Cafe du Monde

Beignets at Cafe du Monde

Finally, as I walked down Bourbon Street (not a huge fan of the touristy scene), I noticed how quiet and beautiful the street was in the rain. This is probably one of my favorite photos I’ve taken in recent memory. Soon, I would fly out at 7am and return back to my beloved NYC. Until next time!

rainy NOLA

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Honolulu Marathon, 50 States Finisher Celebrations and Team Refuel! (12/6-12/10/2012)

Aloha, Hawaii!

I had been looking forward to the Honolulu Marathon (12/9/12) all year, knowing that I would be there celebrating my friends Steven and Hideki as they complete their 50-state marathon journey. Both of them were completing the feat of running one marathon in every state, then finishing their journey in paradise! A group of about 12 of us made the trip from New York City to run or cheer, and I traveled with a smaller group that included my friends Wams, Jackie, Michelle and Donald. It was my first time in Hawaii and I wanted to do as much as I could, in addition to running the marathon. I was in a group of active people, so interestingly enough our trip didn’t include much beach time, mostly hiking and running! The Honolulu Marathon is also my first major race wearing my new Team Refuel gear so I was excited!

On our first night, Thursday, we landed in Waikiki after 11 hours of flying and were in search of some good food. We went to Roy’s, a great Hawaiian fusion restaurant that had seafood and fantastic desserts. I ordered the sea scallops with grapes—so good!

Scallops for dinner at Roy's Waikiki

Scallops for dinner at Roy’s Waikiki

On Friday, Wams, Jackie, Michelle and I woke up early for a 2-mile jog uphill from Waikiki Beach to Diamond Head State Park for a hike. The hike was gorgeous, with amazing vistas of the ocean and the beach. It was medium-strenuous—there was only one clear path and it was paved, with handrails. We did have to climb a lot of hills though. I made sure to stay well-hydrated with water and PowerAde, then I bought some low-fat chocolate milk after the hike to make sure my muscles recovered for the race! The perfect blend of carbs and protein in low-fat chocolate milk allows me to jump this high:

Lisa is fueled by lowfat chocolate milk.

Lisa is fueled by lowfat chocolate milk.

Plus, it was refreshing to drink an ice-cold beverage that also tastes good! (Read more about the benefits of refueling with chocolate milk on the Got Chocolate Milk site.)

Lisa with Diamond Head in the background

Lisa with Diamond Head in the background

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Jackie, Wams, Lisa and Michelle (gray shirt) at the top of Diamond Head

Jackie, Wams, Lisa and Michelle (gray shirt) at the top of Diamond Head

After the hike, we went to the Honolulu Marathon expo, where we met up with my friend and fellow Marathon Maniac Club members Harvey and Steve. Harvey presented us ladies with beautiful orchid leis and kukui nut leis as gifts. Thank you so much for the warm welcome, Harvey! He also got me a bright pink running singlet from the Big Island that said “Run Big” on it. I can’t wait to wear it! Thanks also to my friend Mohan, who got me a Penang Marathon singlet too!

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Thanks for the Big Island Running Co singlet, Harvey!

Thanks for the Big Island Running Co singlet, Harvey!

I picked up my bib number and got really excited for the Honolulu Marathon—it would be my 12th marathon of the year and I just wanted it to be an enjoyable experience. Next, we headed to the Ala Moana shopping center where Michelle and I got 100% Kona coffee. It was delicious!

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That night, the whole group headed to the Marathon Maniacs official dinner (at Buca di Beppo) where we got to meet fellow club members from all around the world that were also running the Honolulu marathon. There must have been at least 50 of us sitting down eating dinner! The organizer, Les, made it a really fun experience for everyone by getting everyone to mingle and handing out door prizes.

Jackie, Benny, Lisa (me) and Bee at the Marathon Maniac dinner

Jackie, Benny, Lisa (me) and Bee at the Marathon Maniac dinner

Marathon runners carbo-loading!

Marathon runners carbo-loading!

Saturday was filled with more hiking, and then a dolphin excursion on Waianae. We saw many pods of dolphins, put on our snorkeling gear, and got to jump off the boat to swim with the dolphins! I was about ten feet away from a pod of dolphins at one point—truly a magical experience. We even saw a humpback whale breaching several times near the end of our journey! I was in awe. Pictures don’t really do it justice.

Me in snorkeling gear

Me in snorkeling gear

A humpback whale breaching

A humpback whale breaching

Having a great time on our dolphin excursion!

Having a great time on our dolphin excursion!

RACE DAY

On Sunday, my friends and I woke up at 3:00am to prepare for the 5:00am Honolulu Marathon start! Why so early? It gets really hot and humid in Hawaii even in December, so the earlier the runners start, the better. I also learned that the Honolulu Marathon keeps its finish line open until the very last finisher crosses, which is an incredible thing for the staff to do (sometimes it takes more than 14 hrs, 30 minutes). We posed for some pictures before getting on the bus to the start line:

Hideki (in purple) and Steve (third from right) with their fan club

Hideki (in purple) and Steve (third from right) with their fan club

Here’s one of me and my friends, 50-state soon-to-be-finishers Steve (left) and Hideki. I’m proudly sporting my Team Refuel gear. We took a big group photo with the Marathon Maniacs club, then headed to the start at 4:50. Ten minutes later, the sky lit up with fireworks and we were off!!

Me with Steve (left) and Hideki before the Honolulu Marathon

Me with Steve (left) and Hideki before the Honolulu Marathon

We ran past beautiful Christmas lights in downtown Honolulu, then Waikiki. There weren’t a ton of spectators at first, but the ones that showed up were super enthusiastic. I took it easy in the early miles, knowing that I needed to save my energy.

We got to watch the beautiful sunrise over the tree tops.

Mile 7 of the Honolulu Marathon

Mile 7 of the Honolulu Marathon

Right as we crested a hill near mile 7, a bunch of teenage volunteers cheered really loudly for all the runners! One could always use a little motivation, right?

Around mile 8, I started to feel the hills and the previous days’ hikes on my legs, but I kept reminding myself that I trained and hydrated well, so I had nothing to worry about. I started seeing my speedier friends like Benny and Steve a couple miles ahead of me, having passed the turnaround point. It was cool seeing them for extra motivation.

Ahh it's getting warm!

Ahh it’s getting warm!

This is why I brought my camera onto the course--awesome backdrop

This is why I brought my camera onto the course–awesome backdrop

When the sun rose higher in the sky, I started sweating a lot more. I gladly took soaked sponges from the volunteers, and took Powergels from the aid stations (they even had Kona Punch-flavored gels!).

As we neared the finish line at Kapiolani Park, we first had to negotiate an incline near Diamond Head. Knowing that I hiked that trail a few days earlier gave me confidence. Nothing was going to stop me now, especially not at mile 24! I was so happy to be in Hawaii that I soaked up all the joy of the experience in the final miles. I crossed the finish line in 5:14:01 (7,398th out of 24,152 finishers). I am glad I stuck to my plan of listening to my body—I needed to give my body a break after running 12 marathons and ultramarathons in 12 months! I had a big smile on my face when I finished—and I was already thinking of my ice cold chocolate milk waiting for me back at the hotel!

I'm a Honolulu Marathon finisher! It's my 18th state.

I’m a Honolulu Marathon finisher! It’s my 18th state.

But first, I had to find my friends at the end. I found Hideki, Derrick, and Tatsunori (a friend of Hideki’s who also finished his 50th state marathon) at the finish, then I bumped into Michelle and Jackie later on. We got our finishers’ shell leis, then walked to the festival area to get our official finishers’ t-shirts (nice tech tees) and our medals.

Derrick, Hideki, and Tatsunori (L-R) greeted me at the finish.

Derrick, Hideki, and Tatsunori (L-R) greeted me at the finish.

We took some photos, got a free shiatsu massage, and then grabbed some lunch for back at the hotel.

So proud of my friends!

So proud of my friends!

Semi-official finisher photo of me-representing Team Refuel!

Semi-official finisher photo of me-representing Team Refuel!

(Hawaiians use the hand signal for “aloha”)

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For lunch, we went to Musubi Iyasume, an amazing place that sells spam musubi (it’s a traditional Hawaiian snack—sticky rice balls usually topped with Spam and wrapped in nori, or seaweed). So for lunch, I had spam musubi, miso soup, and a refreshing bottle of low-fat chocolate milk! The chocolate milk helps in my recovery—I know my muscles need replenishing as soon as possible. The high-quality protein found in low-fat chocolate milk helps my muscles rebuild after strenuous exercise, so I can recover for my next workout! It really works, as I found out the next day that as long as I took walk breaks during the 9-hour flight back to NYC, I had reduced soreness.

Lisa at Musubi Iyasume

Lisa at Musubi Iyasume

This was a truly special trip, made more meaningful because I got to celebrate Hideki and Steve’s special milestone of finishing their 50th state marathon in Hawaii. That night, we had a celebratory dinner with about 30 guests at Uncle Bo’s. The month before, I spearheaded a project to create two surprise scrapbooks with the help of my friends who contributed photos from the various marathons they have run worldwide. It was meant to be presented to them at dinner, in front of everybody. They were completely surprised! We also passed it around at the party so that people could add their signatures and well-wishes. Congratulations, Hideki and Steve!

Hideki and Steve with their 50-state finisher scrapbooks my friends and I made

Hideki and Steve with their 50-state finisher scrapbooks my friends and I made

Well-wishes from friends of the dynamic duo

Well-wishes from friends of the dynamic duo

I’m grateful to Team Refuel for sponsoring me—I’m proud to wear our team colors! Thanks also to all my friends who traveled with me, and my Hawaiian friends for giving me a big welcome to Hawaii. Mahalo!

I love chocolate milk and Team Refuel!

I love chocolate milk and Team Refuel!