Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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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!


gotmilk

Ganso Ramen

Ganso Ramen


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Run 10 Feed 10, Shack Track and Field, and Maker Faire

As I write this, I am back safe and sound from Utah after running the Bear 100. There is so much that happened that it deserves its own race recap, but let’s just say that I am grateful to have had the experience of running in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S., and I will be back…

Two weekends ago, I had the privilege of running the Run 10 Feed 10 (10K race) on behalf of Team Skechers! It was a festive, flat 10K that took place along the West Side Highway in NYC. It was a charity race, and for every runner that registered, the sponsors (including Women’s Health) donated 10 meals to feed the needy in the local community. It felt good to run for a cause!

The weather was perfect and breezy, and I was going to “take it easy” because I was tapering for the Bear 100. However, because I knew it was a flat course, it would be a good chance to stretch out my legs and see how fast I could go in my new Skechers GoRun2 Rides. They’re a great mid-distance shoe, with a little more weight in the heel than the other GoRun2 models. Thanks for the shoes, Skechers!

Every runner got a Run 10 Feed 10 tote bag made of natural jute, access to a post-race festival, and post-race food including Special K Nourish oatmeal, coconut water, fruit, and more. I even got a sweet wristband for the VIP tent that had sandwiches, quiche and coffee thanks to Skechers.

Me and Fanny at the Run 10 Feed 10

Me and Fanny at the Run 10 Feed 10

DSC00449I ended up running a 52:41 (8:29 min/mile) for the 10K because I felt so good. Here are my stats:

262/1987 overall

178/1733 females (Top 10%!)

132/955 in my age group (F14-29)

Every finisher got a cool handmade “Feed” bracelet.

I was really happy. Afterwards, we enjoyed giveaways like full-size products from Vaseline (lotions and cocoa butter), printed socks from Ford, samples from Special K, and more. U.S. Soccer star and Olympic gold medalist Alex Morgan was also on hand signing autographs, and I got to meet her. I had a great time meeting up with Fanny and Beth!

After the race, I met up with my friends Kelly and Camner at the Maker Faire, an event celebrating all things DIY and new printing and manufacturing technologies. It was at the NY Hall of Science and it was a cool, family-friendly event. I got to see the wonders of 3-D printing (I got to take home a mini robot figurine), got my iPod shuffle laser-engraved (with a songbird graphic) on the spot for free, and ate really good paella from Gerard’s Paella.

To cap off the week, I started going to running practices at Shake Shack, the revered burger chain that started in New York. The Battery Park City location started a “Shack Track and Field Club” (originated in Philly), where on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 7pm, they have a group run ranging from 45 minutes to 1 hour, for runners of all abilities. For a one-time fee of $10, you get a Shack Track and Field shirt, post-run drinks, and a coupon for a free custard. I attended the first practice on 9/24, the day before flying out to Salt Lake City, and I had a lot of fun! We ran 45 minutes through the Financial district and the (now shuttered) Seaport, then hung out at the Shack afterwards. Check it out!

I felt great going into the Bear 100 using the Run 10 Feed 10 as a solid training run, plus doing my taper run with the Shack Track and Field club was a good send-off. What happens next ? Stay tuned…

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Maker Faire with Kelly

Maker Faire with Kelly

Representing Team Skechers!

Representing Team Skechers!

Gerard's paella--massive pans!

Gerard’s paella–massive pans!

Run 10 Feed 10 bracelets

Run 10 Feed 10 bracelets

3-D printing machine making a robot figurine

3-D printing machine making a robot figurine


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Spartan Race NJ: Mud and mayhem

On Saturday, 9/7/13, a bunch of my friends and I participated in the Tri-state Super Spartan race in Vernon, NJ! In fact, our team, Big Daddy, was the largest team with 100+ members strong. It would be my third obstacle race–but I was a bit nervous because obstacle races tend to pack in lots of unpleasant surprises. It’s fun once you get through it, but racing through the unknown is a special kind of torture.

I want to thank Skechers Performance for providing me with awesome Skechers GoRun2 shoes that I used for the race. It was actually good to use a light shoe, as it dried quickly in the water obstacles and was flexible when I had to climb over walls and cargo nets. I got no blisters!!

My friend JC drove me and Suzanne to the race site at Mountain Creek ski resort, 1.5 hours away from NYC. We were assigned to the 11:30 am start wave, but through my experience at the Citi Field Spartan Sprint back in April, wave start times are kind of aribitrary, and you can start in a different wave if you miss yours. Traffic was a nightmare, as there were 2 parking zones: a $40 VIP parking lot ( a ripoff, but the start is across the street) and a further lot 1 mile away that has a free shuttle bus. We parked, and waited 20 minutes in line to get on a shuttle, and by that time it was 12pm already. Oops.

We took the time waiting on line to paint on each other’s faces. Oo-rah!

Once we arrived at the race site, we picked up our packets, put on our timing chips, and dropped off our baggage. The worst part of the race was the pre-race organization, namely bag check. There weren’t enough people staffing the bag check tent, and it took 30 minutes for us to drop off our bags with a volunteer. We missed our tentative 12:30pm race start and opted for the 1:00pm wave instead.

Once we got started, it was a tough climb 1.5 miles straight up the ski slope. The sun was beating down, but it was clear and felt like 75F, so it wasn’t terrible. I’ll detail the obstacles shortly, but the main things that stuck out to me were the camaraderie of the different teams, and the variety of obstacles. I was glad I was running with JC and Suzanne, and we stuck together pretty much the whole time. JC was nervous about the swimming obstacle, but I encouraged him and we both reached the other side of the creek safely. I loved seeing familiar faces on the course, like Shamz, Art, and David. During the 8 foot wall obstacle, a former Marine asked us if we needed a boost, then knelt down while he let us step on his shoulder. There were some really nice people helping others out.

It took me over 3 hours to complete the course, but I had so much fun doing it, and I managed to escape injury. The toughest part for me was the barbed wire crawl–it was a 100m pit of mud, and you can to crawl on your hands and knees under barbed wire for what seemed like an eternity. There was another part where you traversed several pits of mud, then had to dunk your head in muddy water under a wooden partition to emerge across the other side. Ick. The finish line photos say it all!

My final time:

3:13:38

Pace: 21:30/mile

Age group: 132/394

Gender: 567/1469

Overall: 2952/5429

Suz painting JC's face

Suz painting JC’s face

Pros of the race:

– Via a super special discount, we got free race registration and only had to pay $13 insurance. If you volunteer at any Spartan Race, you get a free entry!

– The course was relatively well-organized and well-marked. Most of the volunteers were great, but some stations were understaffed (spear station and baggage check), leading to disgruntled volunteers…

– You get a solid, relatively difficult obstacle race (I would say 7/10 in terms of difficulty, at least for me). There was fire, mud, barbed wire, climbing, and obstacles that required teamwork. What more could you ask for?

-free hi-resolution race photos available for download

– You get a neat headband printed with your race number, so you can be visible in photos.

– medal is heavy and nice

– nice photo ops at the finish line.

-Finish line festival had decent food (that you paid for). There was pulled pork and ice cream

Cons:

– cheap cotton finisher shirt, no race location and date on it (same shirt for all locations)

– If you’re uncomfortable with the unknown, you wouldn’t really like this race. There’s 20+ obstacles in this 8-mile course. Train hard! They site doesn’t really tell you what type of gear or shoes to wear.

– baggage check costs $5 and logistics were a nightmare. It was not an organized line and I waited in line 25 minutes to check my bag

– Spartan races tend to be hard to get to, due to their locations at ski resorts. Allow extra driving/parking time!

Obstacle Highlights (this is not a complete list of obstacles):

– cargo net climb

– inverted wall

-swim across a creek (there were life vests)

– rope climb (this was one I failed at–I got up to 3/4 of the way)

– scaling a wooden wall

– climbing an 8 ft wall

– Tire flips

– “tractor” pull (pull a heavy rock)

– spear throw–if you fail, do 30 burpees (many failed)

– carry a sandbag up and down a steep hill

– the course itself was an obstacle–the first 1.5 miles were completely uphill, up a double black diamond ski slope

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Lisa’s tips for future obstacle races:

– Bring a water bottle. a hand-held one with a grip thing is best–I used one with a rubber bracelet around it so I could tug it with me on my life vest in the water obstacle. There were only 3 water stations in the 8 miles.

-wear shoes that are relatively light with decent tread. Wear shoes that are easy to wash or that you plan on donating afterward–they will get muddy!

– bring shower gel, a change of clothes, and flip flops after the race.

– Go extra early! Many obstacle races have huge numbers of participants and the locations are remote/hard to get to. Allow yourself time for parking/traffic.

I knew at the finish line… that I have the coolest friends ever!!

So what did we do after our epic adventure? We hosed ourselves off in the makeshift “showers,” waited for the shuttle bus, then drove to Edgewater, NJ to eat dinner at the Japanese market, Mitsuwa. It’s the largest Japanese supermarket in the US! I ate a delicious spicy pork ramen at Santoka Ramen in the food court. Yum!! It was the perfect way to reward ourselves after a day of mud and mayhem. On to

the next adventure!

Me with my Skechers GoRun2's

Me with my Skechers GoRun2’s

Spicy pork ramen at Santoka ramen

Spicy pork ramen at Santoka ramen

spartan run

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spartan crew 2


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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.


2 Comments

20in24 cancelled and pacing the TGNY 100 miler

Dear readers,

I can’t believe it’s been just over a year since I started this little blog. I figured there were others out there just like me who love eating, running or both. I am so grateful to all my friends and readers who have fully supported my journey. I am grateful to my sponsors, Team Refuel/Got Chocolate Milk and X-1 Audio, who provide me with awesome gear, grant money and waterproof headphones not because I’m the fastest runner ever, but because I love running!

To follow up, a few weeks ago I was waiting for the bus from NYC to Philadelphia on 7/19/13 (it was 98 degrees in NYC that day, by the way), when I got word that the 20in24 Back on My Feet races were first shortened (to a 12-hr event), then cancelled due to a predicted 110F heat index for Saturday. I was melting into the sidewalk (literally), when I heard this news and I was so bummed. A ton of my friends called and texted me to make sure that I heard before making the trip. In a span of a minute, I considered all my options and made up my mind to travel anyway. Why? Two reasons: my friends were already en route to Philly, and most importantly, my cousin Jing was making the trip from Nashville to Philly just to cheer me on! He travels a lot for work and he had never seen me run before, but when he heard I was doing this crazy race, he offered to come and cheer. I couldn’t NOT go to Philly and not spend time with my friends and cousin!

So the bus arrived two hours late due to traffic, but I was able to make it to dinner at Spasso, where we laughed and cried (not literally, but on the inside) because we were all so sad that the 20in24 races were cancelled. Quite a few of us fundraised $500+ to earn our spots. I was glad that the money still went to Back on My Feet, a great cause, but sad because we had trained hard for this event and the heat would not have deterred us ultrarunners.

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The next day, Jing and I went to Joe Coffee in Philly, then we met up with my group of friends (Alison, Atsede, Hideki, Rick, Joe, Annette, Scott and Lucy) for brunch at Sabrina’s Cafe and Spencer’s Too. I got the huevos rancheros and they were DELICIOUS.

We went shopping at Athleta (yes, sometimes shopping is the best therapy) and Philadelphia Runner. Jing and I decided to go to a museum–we tried to go to the Barnes Collection only to be turned away because you need to make a reservation (who knew?). We went to the Rodin Museum instead, and it was lovely. After, I managed to squeeze in a 2-mile run near Lloyd Hall (yes, it was 95 degrees…but nothing I haven’t run in before) before dinner. Then Jing and I went to an awesome sushi spot near the Best Western before I left for home. I only spent 24 hours in Philly but it was great!

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At brunch in Philly

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Jing and I in front of the Rodin Museum, Philly

Going backwards in time–it was tough to miss the 20in24 as part of my Bear 100 training (I had aimed to run 80 miles), but I am very glad I got to pace my friend Juergen for his first 100-mile attempt at the Great New York 100 (TGNY 100).

From June 29-30, a group of 50 intrepid ultrarunners ran 100 miles through New York City, almost undetected by the city. A Wall Street Journal article did bring awareness to the event, put on by Phil McCarthy, but for the most part it was a low-key event. My friend Juergen came all the way from Munich for this 100-mile run, so I wanted to make sure he succeeded! The plan was that I would pace him for 26 miles, then Shane would take over and pace him for 38 miles starting from the 100K mark. It was a crazy day for me–Shane and I went to the start line in Times Square at 4:30am to see the runners go off at 5:00am.

TGNY 100 runners in Times Square (photo by OhSnapper/Richard Chung)

TGNY 100 runners in Times Square (photo by OhSnapper/Richard Chung)

I then went to Central Park at 8:30am for the 5-mile Pride run, ran that, went to work to pick up my running supplies, then met Juergen in Astoria at mile 37 so I could pace him. Then I went to work the next day. Whew!

It was so worth it–the ultrarunning community is extremely supportive and I wanted to play my role to support the TGNY 100 runners. Juergen was extremely positive even when temperatures reached 90 degrees, and I joked at one point that he might have to carry me on his back and I would go down in legend as the worst pacer ever. (I took some walking breaks while Juergen took hardly any breaks) One of my favorite parts of the run was at Wide Water Marina, where my friends Becky, Steven, Ray and Bee were manning an aid station. They filled our bags with ice and gave us cookies and PB&J. It was awesome.

My job was to make sure that Juergen stayed hydrated, and I held the directions that gave turn-by-turn instructions. Luckily, we didn’t get lost. Every time a runner passed us we gave encouragement. I also loved running through Alley Pond Park, where Atsede, Annette and Joe were volunteering at an aid station.

Juergen was strong approaching the 100K mark, and Shane ran to meet us at Forest Park to make sure we didn’t miss the aid station.

Lisa (me) pacing Juergen during the TGNY 100

Lisa (me) pacing Juergen during the TGNY 100

I knew Juergen was in good hands. He ended up running a negative split, and finished in 6th place overall with a time of 23:15:24!! I was so proud of Juergen and our pacing team. Who says that running isn’t a team sport? My friend Tommy was the overall male winner, and Sky won the women’s division in her 100-mile debut. Congrats Sky, Juergen and Tommy! Also, congrats to my friends Shannon, Otto, and all runners who finished the 100 mile or 100K races.

After the race, Juergen and our friend Otto went home to NJ to nap, then I met up with them for a post-race celebration at Qi, a Thai restaurant.

I surprised Juergen with a mini-cake to celebrate his first 100-mile finish, and Becky and Otto joined us for the celebration.

Team Juergen

Team Juergen

A few weeks later, Juergen sent me a surprise in the mail for my birthday. It was a beautiful scrapbook commemorating the TGNY 100 run, filled with photos of the two days taken by friends and other spectators. It was one of the best gifts I have ever gotten. Thanks Juergen! I am proud to be your friend and pacer (and hydration manager).

Peace, love and running,

Lisa

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