Lisa Runs on Ramen

— running 26.2 and having foodie adventures too!


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TGNY 100: running NYC on foot in 26 hours

On June 21, I had the pleasure of being a part of the “Class of 2014” in The Great New York Running Exposition 100-miler, or the TGNY 100. Ever since I had paced my friend Juergen last year for 26 miles, I was inspired and wanted to run it myself one day. After my DNF at the Bear 100 mile last year in Utah (dropped out at mile 61), a part of me was aching to prove to myself that I could run 100 miles for a second time, to relive that amazing feeling when I finished my first one at the Beast of Burden Summer 100 in 2012. I am an NYC native, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to run through my hometown. The course started in Times Square, went up to Inwood, into the Bronx, through Orchard Beach, through Randall’s Island, Astoria, Alley Pond Park, Kew Gardens, and then down to Broad Channel and Rockaway Beach, Sheepshead Bay (Brooklyn), Bensonhurst, the Brooklyn Bridge, and finally through SoHo and ending in Times Square. It was an awesome course.

I had an all-star team of pacers to support my journey–Ken, Tiffany, and Shane. I knew I couldn’t let them down, and Shane had promised that he wouldn’t let me drop out early at the 100K mark. On Tuesday before the race, Ken, Tiffany and I strategized at Num Pang Sandwich Shop. Ken would pace me for miles 36-51 from Astoria to Alley Pond Park, then Tiffany would pace me from mile 51 (Alley Pond Park) until the 100K mark (62 miles) at Forest Park, and finally, Shane would pace me from 100K to the finish line in Times Square. I am so fortunate to have my pacing team behind me, and I know that my race wouldn’t be possible without them.

Race Day (6/21/14)

I had a goal to finish the race within 28 hours, which would be a PR for me (my best time was 28:23) and would give me a cushion before the 30-hour cutoff. I was feeling jittery the night before, picking out my outfit and not getting enough sleep because of my anxiety. I wore my Team Refuel/Got Chocolate Milk jersey and Skechers GoRun Ride 3’s, my most trusty gear and representing my awesome sponsors. Shane and I took the train to the start at 5:00 am to Times Square. Funnily enough, the Solstice Yoga in Times Square was the same day so there were people setting up for that event. I saw a lot of friends milling about pre-race, and my friends Donald and Karen were volunteering! Jackie and her family were there–Jackie’s sister planned it as her bachelorette party of sorts, getting a bunch of friends to crew her and surprising Jackie with a veil! It set the tone for the race to be awesome.

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Photo credit: OhSnapper Photography/Richard Chung

All the runners got tech shirts and glow-in-the-dark wristbands instead of bib numbers. I was “bib number” 10, pretty cool. I had two water bottles, a Nathan running pack stuffed with food, and a printout of the turn-by-turn instructions. I was ready. I used the bathroom at McDonald’s last minute with a bunch of other runners, posed for pics, and then we were off!

Me, Jackie and Robin during the TGNY 100. Photo credit: Ben Ko

Me, Jackie and Robin during the TGNY 100. Photo credit: Ben Ko

Miles 1-25:

The course wound through familiar territory–Central Park and Riverside Drive at the beginning. We saw Mary volunteering and she made us blueberry bread, yum! I ran with Jackie and Robin for about 15 miles, then I felt like my pace was a bit too fast, so I hung back and ran alone for a little bit. Luckily, I found that Scott and Lucy were around my pace, and they were kind enough to direct me to where I needed to go and I ran with them for a while. In the Bronx, we found the place where garbage trucks were “sleeping.” Such a random sight!

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Running through Hunts Point near the Bruckner Expressway was emotional for me. I was a corps member with City Year (Americorps) right when I graduated college, and I served as a mentor/tutor at MS 302 in the South Bronx. I reflected on my year of service and mentally saluted the Bronx in my head for giving me a very meaningful first job.

I was most worried about getting lost for the first 36 miles before my first pacer (Ken) picked me up. Luckily, that didn’t happen. One of the most memorable stretches was running in Pelham Bay Park towards Orchard Beach. It was a beautiful sight–I didn’t get to hang out, but there were awesome indoor public bathrooms! You learn to appreciate the little things when you run a 100!

Lulu and Joe were volunteering at the aid station, which we saw twice at mile 21 and 25. I was so happy to see them! Seriously, thank you to ALL the volunteers. This race wouldn’t be possible without you.

Me, Ken and Yossi around mile 51

Me, Ken and Yossi around mile 51

Miles 26-51:

At mile 26, I was feeling good. Then I remembered I had 74 miles (roughly 3 marathons left to go). Darn. I would say the hardest part was running for a full workday, looking at my watch, and then still knowing that I had a long way to go. My strategy for this race (which I highly recommend) was to run from aid station to aid station, then pacer to pacer (luckily, there were 18 aid stations and 3 amazing pacers waiting for me). I broke the race down into 4 digestible pieces of 25 miles each.

One tough part was in the middle of the day, running up a long uphill bridge from Randall’s Island to Queens. Most New Yorkers don’t know that Randall’s Island exists. The special thing about the TGNY was that I ran through places filled with memories for me. When I was a student at Stuyvesant High School, I ran on the cross country and track teams. They built the shiny Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island my senior year (for our track meets), and I dabbled in the 800m and 2000m steeplechase that year. I wasn’t very fast. I think my 17-year-old self would be proud of the runner I have become.

Couldn't resist snapping a selfie around mile 35.5

Couldn’t resist snapping a selfie around mile 35.5

At the mile 37 aid station, I got a second wind in the form of my dear friend Ken. For those of you who know Ken, he is a ball of energy, just what I needed! I was running slightly behind schedule and reached mile 37 around 1:00pm, an hour behind my very optimistic schedule (I had hoped for 12pm). Ken was glad to see me in one piece, and immediately asked me what I needed. He very kindly brought a battery pack to charge my phone–what a luxury!

I saw Kino at the aid station too, said hello, and I was on my way. I remembered pacing Juergen in this section in Astoria, so I was glad to be in familiar territory. Ken kept me going at a solid pace, but I did shuffle my feet a little. It was a very hot part of the day and I had been awake since 3:00am, so I was pretty tired already. The miles did float past after awhile–Ken kept making sure that I was eating and drinking regularly. We even stopped by a grocery store where he bought me some gum and a juicy peach! The gum would save me much later.

At World’s Fair Marina (mile 41), we saw Bee, Talisa, and Steven’s mom volunteering. I was so happy to see them! They had an amazing, well-stocked aid station. They had onigiri (rice balls) and fresh watermelon for us. I felt like I was in heaven. Thanks guys!

The next 10 miles ran through Flushing and residential streets. The concrete was devilish–it made my feet feel heavy and my turnover was not as good. Although the course is mostly flat, the cement is killer and is one reason why this race can be quite difficult. My second pacer and teammate Tiffany was running into traffic issues commuting to the 51-mile mark, but luckily it looked like we would be right on schedule for her to pick me up for pacing at Alley Pond Park in Queens.

Mile 51, Alley Pond Park. Photo: Ben Ko

Mile 51, Alley Pond Park. Photo: Ben Ko

Tiffany was bringing me my favorite treats: Harmless Harvest Coconut Water, Kind Bars, and ibuprofen! Well, the first two are my favorites–the third one was for emergencies only. It was a relief to be drinking something else other than Nuun or Gatorade soon. See? I told you I have the best pacers and friends!

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When I saw Tiffany, I cracked a big smile. We were wearing matching Oakley shades that we had bought the week before! I had met her recently at the Ragnar Cape Cod, and here she was running 10 miles with me only a month later. Runners are pretty amazing people.

Miles 52-62 (100K)

I was still feeling pretty good, but I knew that the next 10 miles would be difficult. I had to make sure I kept fueling and stay at a conservative pace. We had seen Jackie’s puppy, Yossi, at previous aid stations so that lifted my spirits too! Tiffany and I chatted about past and future races, and it seemed to be just a regular training run in the park.

We ran through Kissena Corridor Park and saw Helen, Rob K. and Yossi! Puppies at aid stations? What a bonus perk for this race!! Me and Tiffany were really excited to see Yossi, can you tell?

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The next stretch in Flushing Meadows Corona Park seemed interminable. I had run in the park many times before, but my muscles felt pretty destroyed by this point so I was running pretty slowly. I stopped to use the bathroom and it was tough to resume running. The 100K mark loomed tantalizingly close, but still so far. We ran by the Kew Gardens F train stop, and Forest Park was just beyond that. I drank coconut water and took some ibuprofen to make my muscles stop protesting. It worked–at least for now. I only take ibuprofen during 100-milers–I generally avoid it otherwise.

Miles 63-90

Finally, with Tiffany’s encouragement, I reached the 100K mark! We were pretty much on target with 14:31 for our split, only 1 minute beyond my hoped-for 100K split. I bid adieu to Tiffany and said hello to Shane, who was my secret weapon pacer for 38 miles. He has finished a 135-miler twice (the Arrowhead 135) so I really had no reason to complain during my 100!

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I sat down for about 20 minutes to pop a blister, eat a few bites of pizza and sweet potato, and change my shirt. I was afraid of sitting down too long and not getting up. I also had a “Mamma Chia” energy snack (similar to applesauce), but that was my whole dinner. Looking back, I should have eaten the entire pizza slice and consumed more calories–I definitely felt an energy deficit later on.

I saw Paula, Cheryl, Michelle, Alison and so many cheery, familiar faces at 100K! It helped boost my spirits and I knew that I wanted to finish and make them proud. Shane and I left the aid station and quickly got back on track.

We were running through the Howard Beach neighborhood–we ran by Vincent’s by the Bay, my friend Rob’s (Rob Petrocelli’s) favorite Italian restaurant. He passed away last year, and I thought of him as I ran by and prayed that he would help guide me to the finish as well (miss you, Rob!). Shane had paced this stretch with Juergen last year and I knew that I wouldn’t get lost under his watch.

He was a brisk pacer, and he didn’t want me to walk much. It was much better to have him there so I wouldn’t slack off. As dusk fell, I felt more and more lethargic, but I had one goal only: to get to the finish. We reached Adabbo Bridge aid station and there was a lone volunteer. We checked in, and as we crossed the bridge, we saw a magnificent pink sunset. There were fishermen hanging around the bridge, and they curiously glanced up at us runners.

Mile 71: We reached the Rockaway Beach aid station, and I slowed down a lot. Shane pretty much commanded me to eat some trail mix, as I complained of nausea and not wanting to eat another granola bar. I really wished I had packed some more savory snacks in my pack, as I didn’t want anything sweet. It was right around here that I started feeling sick. I had to go to a bar in Broad Channel to use their bathroom. Luckily, they didn’t ask questions about my running attire and let me right in. Broad Channel feels like a small, sleepy beach town–it’s quaint! Shane told me not to dawdle too long, as he had set a goal for me to reach mile 75 by midnight.

Mile 75: Jacob Riis Park–there were two lovely volunteers who were originally from London. I remembered I loved hearing their accents, haha. One was a past participant of the TGNY 100, and he offered us cookies and chocolate pudding. It was starting to get a bit chilly, and I wanted to do nothing except lie down. My body was literally going into sleep mode. On the bright side, we reached mile 75 at 11:30pm! I had run roughly 3 marathons in 18.5 hours–definitely something to be happy about.

Mile 80: Around Miles 77-79, Shane and I were running in the pitch dark to Brooklyn. We nearly took a wrong turn, but luckily we found our way after some fumbling around in the dark. I literally couldn’t eat another granola bar without wanting to puke. My skin felt clammy, and I just felt weird in general. I couldn’t tell if I was drinking too much water or not taking in enough salt–possibly both. I saw my friends Annette and Jess, and Jayne and her daughters (Jackie’s family), and told them I felt horrible. I sat down for a few minutes while Jess handed me chicken broth and pretzels. Shane told me to eat some potato chips. I just wanted the terrible feeling to pass!

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The next few miles after 80 seemed the longest ever. Around 2am, we reached the “boring stretch” that Shane had warned me about. The Verrazano Narrows Bridge loomed far off in the distance for a good 5 miles, and we had to run toward it and under it. I stopped to use the bathroom about every 45 minutes because of my digestive issues. It was bad. We see a man with a bike, green lights flashing and loud techno music blaring, all by himself near the bridge. It was comical, but if I was alone I probably would have been scared! Shane and I walk for most of the 5 miles, with a few short runs in between. I felt blisters forming under my feet, and it became super painful to run and walk.

As the sun finally starts to rise, we are approaching the Leif Ericsson park at Mile 90, where my friend/pacer Ken was volunteering. He had gone to a wedding after pacing me, and he promised to wait at the aid station for me in a full suit. I saw him, gave him a quick hug, and told him I was feeling really bad. He gave me a bag of Lay’s cheesy garlic bread chips and it cheered me up a bit after a few bites.

Miles 91-100

My blisters pretty much reached a crisis point by mile 91, so I speedwalked most of the last 10 miles as best as I could. We were running through my beloved Park Slope, Brooklyn, and I couldn’t even enjoy it because I was in so much pain. I was over-hydrated, and I had to stop and use the bathroom every 45 minutes for the last 3 hours. It was torture. To make things worse, I hadn’t eaten anything for about 3 hours because I simply couldn’t eat another gel or granola bar. I felt too full from the water and I only wanted salty foods. My energy levels plummeted. I later found out that I had 5 blisters on my right foot (including on the sole) and 1 on my left, so the pain was very much real. Why are you doing this to me?? My feet seemed to ask…

I thought of all the people who had taken time out of their day to watch me succeed…

I couldn’t let them down. I wouldn’t.

I thought of my first DNF last year at the Bear 100 in Utah, heartbreaking after running 61 miles in the freezing cold at night all by myself…

I thought of how much I had learned from that and what a different challenge this was for me.

I thought of all the 1038915 crazy reasons why I love running and the way it makes me feel alive, how lucky I was that my body is able to do this.

I reached the aid station at Mile 95 at Borough Hall, Brooklyn, and I had a measly 5 miles left to go. I gave the volunteers a big hug, broke down crying on Mary’s shoulder. She told me I was doing great, and gave me something I could finally eat–a packet of applesauce!!

Shane and I reached the Brooklyn Bridge, finally crossing into Manhattan. I was beyond exhausted, but I dug deep and marveled at how empty the bridge was at 6:45am on a Sunday. There were just a handful of people, but otherwise the bridge was ours. He told me to go ahead and took this photo:

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After a stroll through Chinatown and Soho, I picked up my pace a tiny bit, as my blisters allowed. The pain from them was excruciating–I had been running/walking on them for 20 miles. I knew the last 4 miles like the back of my hand, and I was even going to run past my office! Shane looks at me with a grin and said–“I think you’re going to run a personal best!”

I didn’t want to jinx it, so I just said “Maybe.”

We reach Union Square, and it’s just a mile up Flatiron and to the finish line at 44th and Broadway. There are some pedestrians by now, 7:30am. I thought of how I asked my mom to wait for me at 9am. It occurred to me that I might even finish before she gets there. I run by the Broadway Bites food festival tents set up in Greeley Square, and I distinctly think about them being in my way! I have to run on the sidewalk instead. I am counting down the individual blocks at this point. The flashing lights of Times Square twinkle at me in the distance.

I run by the Ruby Tuesday, under some ugly scaffolding, and I look up at 42nd and Broadway. I hear clapping!

The finish line was 2 blocks sooner than I had thought–last year it was at 44th Street. I smile and run towards my friends and fellow runners who had gathered at the finish.

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Photo credit: Atsede Aemro Selassie

I see Phil, the race director, standing at the finish. He gives me a big hug and hands me the finisher buckle. I thank him and give Shane a hug for running 38 miles with me. I let all the emotions wash over me, and I cry because I can finally stop running!

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Words can’t describe how it feels to finish a 100 miler. It is painful, it is crazy, and it’s pure bliss once you are finally done. I had finished in a time of 26:36:10, a 1 hour and 47 minute improvement from my previous best time! It has been an amazing run.

Lisa’s TGNY 100 stats:

Time: 26:36:10,  Place: 29/35 overall, 9th female

Thank you to everyone who has helped me in this journey–Shane, Tiffany, Ken, all the volunteers, and the co-race directors Phil and Trishul. Thanks to my mom who waited for me at the finish! Also, congratulations to my fellow runners–you are all inspiring.

Thank you to my co-workers and friends who sent me messages of support. It meant the world to me! Now that I am rested and recovered, I can’t wait until my next adventure. I love you, New York!

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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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Bear 100 in the dark (part 2)

(This is a continuation of my Bear 100 adventure in Utah on 9/27/13. Part 1 is here)

As darkness set in during the Bear 100, the temperature dropped to low 30s, then 20s (I was told). I was still feeling ok, but my body started shivering to keep warm. I hadn’t run an ultra through the night in awhile (since the 20in24 was cancelled), so I started feeling nervous. I sat down for the first time at Right Hand Fork (mile 36.9) and some lovely volunteers made sure I got my headlamp from my drop bag, hot soup, and gave me a fruit cup and everything I needed. There was a tiny creek crossing and I was on my way!

Dusk starts to fall at the Bear 100

Dusk starts to fall at the Bear 100

I couldn’t believe how quickly it got dark. I switched on my headlamp and prepared to find my way to Aid Station #6, Temple Fork at 45 miles. It was here that I took a wrong turn and got lost for the first time. I knew something was wrong when I

didn’t see any pink trail markers for at least 20 minutes. By now, it had gotten really dark so it was hard to see anything. I was on a Jeep road, and I saw people camping with RVs in the distance so I wasn’t totally alone, but I saw no runners. I backtracked, and finally I saw some headlamps on an adjacent road that was a few meters above the road I was currently on. I called out “I think I’m lost! Are you part of the 100?” Turns out that it was a runner named Amber and her pacer (small world–Amber was friends with a friend I made through the Maniacs named Jennifer), and luckily they helped pull me up through the bushes and onto the correct path.

We chatted and ran together the 3-4 miles until the next aid station and I felt a sense of relief at seeing another runner. I had lost time and run extra miles by this point, so I knew I needed to keep going, even if that meant separating from the comforting presence of another person. I made it to Temple Fork, and at this point I was mentally tired, since it was completely dark. I was looking for my drop bag, and was told that it wasn’t there. I was searching and searching when I suddenly realized I didn’t HAVE a drop bag for this aid station. Another example about how my brain was a bit addled.

The volunteers pointed me to a trail above the highway and said, “just follow the glowsticks.” I obliged, and followed a steep climb lined with only a few tiny glowsticks hanging from the trees. It was pitch black at this point and I could only hear the sound of my breathing. I couldn’t even see whether the trail ahead of me was flat or steep! (maybe that was a good thing.) The only thing that kept me going was seeing the pink trail markers and an occasional reflector strip tacked onto a tree. There were a few times when I heard small animals scurrying around in the bushes, but nothing big.

Another hazard of navigating the trail in the dark was stepping in cow/animal dung. Seriously. I’ll tell you why later (besides the obvious gross factor of it). There were several times I was thinking, “wow this trail is really muddy,” while I was actually stepping straight into cow poop. Lovely.

The next 6.7 miles between mile 45 and mile 51 (to the Tony Grove aid station) took me forever. I only saw two souls: a guy from California with trekking poles, and another fellow named Kevin. It turns out the guy from California was on his 3rd attempt of the Bear 100, seeking his first finish. I found Kevin sitting in the snow by the side of the trail around mile 48. He didn’t look good, and I asked him if he was ok. I couldn’t bear to leave him by himself, so I helped him get up and promised that we’d get to the next aid station together. It was so, so dark, and I could only see the glistening snow when I shined my headlamp through the trees. It was very, very cold, and I sort of contemplated dropping out at the next aid station, but quickly quashed that notion. Kevin was talking about how this year the weather was brutal, and he was able to finish last year but was going to drop out as soon as we hit mile 51. I was glad for his company, and we made sure to look for the pink mile markers. We finally reached the Tony Grove aid station, and the hum of the generator was the best sound that I had ever heard.

It was 12:30am at this point, and I sat down in a chair while volunteers draped me in blankets. I reached for my drop bag, where I had stashed a big red fleece jacket I bought the day before (Bear 100 merchandise). I put on the jacket, downed half a can of Starbucks Espresso shot, and rested for 10 minutes. It was so cold that I wanted to just stay there the rest of the night, under that blanket, but I was on a mission. I had told my pacer that I was going to meet her around 2:00am at Mile 61. I was going to be really late, but unfortunately I had no cell phone reception and no way of telling her.

I said goodbye to Kevin, waited for the caffeine to kick in, and asked a volunteer to guide me to the trailhead. I hated being lost the first time and didn’t want to waste valuable time looking for the wrong trail! Up I went on the steep trail. It was a long climb–the darkness was only good because I didn’t have to think about how steep it actually was!

I drank a lot of water and ate some granola bars to keep my energy up. At this point, my granola bars were frozen! The mouthpiece on my Nathan hydration pack had also frozen, so I relied on my handheld bottle. When I shook it, I could hear chunks of ice inside. Freezing. I was very conscious of the ice at night, and my trail shoes provided little traction because of the frozen cow poop I had stepped on earlier. I started to feel scared and lonely, and used my iPod shuffle for moral support. I kept one earbud in so I could listen for animals and people with the other ear. Around mile 53, I came to a creek crossing. It was icy, and I could barely see the other side. I used my hands to brace myself on the rocks, and very slowly made my way across. There were three possible ways I could have gone after crossing the creek. One of them was a dead end, one was the way I came from, and one was the right path. I was suddenly very disoriented and I couldn’t remember which way I came, since I went back over the creek to look for the last pink trail marking.

I forged ahead and assumed I was going in the right direction. The scenery was exactly the same. I had completely stopped taking pictures once darkness hit because I was feeling crappy and couldn’t see ANYTHING. The next mile was the scariest part–there was a really steep downhill part completely iced over. I took one step and went flying down the path on my butt. Ouch!! The worst part was, I used my bottle as a trekking pole while I helplessly clung to some weeds on a hillside. The only way was down, and there was a ravine on the other side. If my mom could see her daughter in this state, she would’ve had five heart attacks in a row. It was really dangerous–one wrong step and I could fall OFF the trail, into the ravine, and no one would have found me for hours. It was so dangerous that I literally wished I had quit at the last aid station when I had a chance.

I gingerly crawled down the iced-over trail on all fours, using my bottle for traction. God, I really wish I had some trekking poles. I did this for about 300m, and it was the longest stretch of my life. I saw one person come by (same guy from California with his trekking poles), and asked him for help, but he didn’t look to be in any position to help me. He came and went. Well, so much for that. He was probably delirious as well.

I finally made it safely down the path and kept walking down the path. I stopped to look at my directions and they said “Turn left, down, crossing a stream, and ascend north, up a pass full of Mules Ear daisies. Cattle braid the trail in this area, but the trails will rejoin after the meadow.” What??! If this didn’t make sense to me at home, what the heck does it mean 19 hours into running a 100-mile race when I’m exhausted? I was growing increasingly frustrated.

I passed through a giant field (I assume full of Mules Ear daisies, still don’t know what it was talking about), and saw two lone runners.

“Am I going the right way?” I asked.

“You’re on the right path, but I hear the aid station is at least an hour away,” they called back.

My brain refused to believe it. It was already 3am and I was the most tired I had ever been in my life. What choice did I have? I was closer to mile 61 than the mile 51 aid station I had left. I couldn’t fathom making my way up the icy hill. I literally had no options. I couldn’t call anyone for help with my useless cell phone. It was an awful feeling.

The last 5 miles were torture. I would see pink trail markers, then I would stray off the trail, and then I would feel like I was going in circles. At one point, I followed the trail markers right into a big field of rocks. I contemplated this problem for a solid 10 minutes before I finally found another marker. I was hopelessly getting lost. I knew that I was not too far off the trail at any point, but going in circles did nothing for my morale. I made the decision that if my pacer, C, was still at mile 61, I would continue. Otherwise, I was going to drop out because mentally, I was done.

The last few hundred meters before reaching the aid station were tough. I saw a volunteer go out looking for runners, and he shouted at me “the aid station is just up ahead!”

“Ok!” I said, and gestured in the direction I was going. I heard the generators and saw the lights of the aid station a few moments later, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find the way out! All I saw were more trees and impassable woods. “Help!” I shouted, hoping someone would hear me.

A volunteer actually had to guide me the last few hundred feet to the aid station because I was so delirious. I was surprised that I didn’t even cry, because I was so broken-spirited at that point. The first thing I asked was if she had seen my pacer. The volunteer said no, she had not seen anyone ask for me or look for me. It was not cool. At that point, I was too tired to care. I sat in front of a bonfire, tried to get warm, and told the volunteers that I was dropping out. They tried to get to me to stay in the race, but it was already 5:30am and I had no more will to go on 39 more miles after the 10-mile fiasco I had just went through. I needed to save my energy for another day. I send my thanks to the volunteers, and especially to the good Samaritan that drove me from mile 61 to the finish line in Fish Haven, ID so that I could wait for Shane to cross the finish. I got my glimpse of Bear Lake from the car, but was too tired to enjoy it.

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My first DNF was a tough pill to swallow. I had wanted so much to complete this race. There were a few things that went wrong–some of it was beyond my control and some of it I know I can do better for next time.

For this race, I would definitely use trekking poles next time. They would have saved me from sliding down an icy mountain on my behind and would have helped in my posture for later in the race. I would also pack more layers and dress more warmly next time.

I would also bring along a pacer that I know and trust for this race. I don’t blame my pacer for my DNF, but I wished that she would have at least left a message for me at the aid station that she had to leave (she was supposed to be with me from 2am-10am), and at least acknowledge she cared for my well-being. I exchanged a few texts and an email after the race telling her that I had no reception and didn’t have any way of letting her know I got lost, but I was disappointed that she did not at least inquire about me at the aid station. Anyway, that is water under the bridge, and I can’t change that.

I would have also tried to study the course a bit more. The markings were more sparse than promised (or wild animals ate them, who knows), but at some parts it was very difficult to navigate.

I really do want to try for the Bear 100 again, hopefully in 2014, but if not, then definitely 2015. I do not regret giving it my all and making it as far as 61 miles! I am glad that I am safe and uninjured, and I thank Shane for making the journey with me.

Epilogue

I made it to the finish line by car after my DNF, and I was able to watch Shane cross the finish line in a time of 32 hrs 57 min! Well done, Shane! It was a really crazy race in less-than-ideal conditions. I heard from many runners that it is rare for the course to be so icy/snowy this time of year.

Lisa in Idaho

Lisa in Idaho

I was exhausted but was so hopped up on caffeine and adrenaline that I found it impossible to sleep at the finish while I was waiting. Plus, I wanted to be sure I saw Shane finish. There was a nice post-race food spread and an awards ceremony, where the finishers got a belt buckle and finisher’s plaque. I later found out that Fish Haven is famous for its raspberry shakes, so I will have to have one of those next time!

The day after the race, I met up with my friends Jenny and Mark, who drove from Provo to have dinner with us at an Italian place named Cafe Molise. It was so nice to see them after such a crazy adventure, and I hope to see them again during my next trip to Salt Lake City. Shane and I also enjoyed a day of sightseeing on Antelope Island. We got really close to a bison that crossed the road, and saw stunning scenery and awesome salt flats. I’ll be back, Utah! Until the next adventure…

Shane finishing his 100-mile journey

Shane finishing his 100-mile journey

Shane and his buckle

Shane and his buckle

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A “Bear” of a time at the Bear 100 (part 1)

A few weeks ago, I had the craziest and most memorable adventure of my life running the Bear 100 in Utah. It’s a grueling, 100-mile trail run from Logan, UT to Fish Haven, ID. The race was billed as “36 hours of Indian summer,” with stunning views of pine trees, golden aspen and red maples. My previous 100-miler, the Beast of Burden Summer 100 (you can read the race report here), was a flat, out-and-back course with punishing heat, and I was ready to step up my game. I knew there was a possibility that I wouldn’t finish such a crazy mountain race, but having run road races for 10 years, I was looking for a new challenge. I was really proud of my spotless record–out of 175 road races I have run since 2003 (in distances ranging from 1 mile to 100 miles), I had finished every single one. I always did say, if I were to DNF (do not finish) a race, I would do so in epic fashion!

My story begins on Wednesday, 9/25, when Shane and I boarded our JetBlue flight from JFK to Salt Lake City. When I arrived at Terminal 5, I was delighted to see that a Baked by Melissa cupcake shop had opened! I love their cupcakes, and I always use a marathon or ultramarathon as an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth. I bought a few cupcakes to throw in my purse, and it got me in a happy mood as I got ready for our five-hour flight.

It was a relaxing, uneventful flight, and we arrived late evening. I was so excited to be in Utah! The next morning, we went to Alchemy Coffee in Salt Lake City and enjoyed some pumpkin spice lattes. What can be better than that! It was a nice, cozy cafe and the coffee helped me wake up. I knew that we would have limited energy to sightsee after the race, so we also hit up RubySnap cookies, which had rave reviews on Yelp. The decor was very 50’s and kitschy. They give generous samples (half a cookie!) so we tried some amazing flavors, including a seasonal one with strawberries and a goat cheese cream on top. I ended up getting a 4-pack with the following flavors: Audrey (almond dough with almonds, cranberries and white chocolate), Penelope (peanut butter dipped in chocolate), and Lilly (lemon sugar cookie with lemon glaze and lemonheads). If you’re in Salt Lake City, you must go to RubySnap!

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The Penelope cookie

The Penelope cookie

Me and Shane at the pre-race meeting in Amalga Park, UT

Me and Shane at the pre-race meeting in Amalga Park, UT

We also went to the State Capitol building, saw the outside of the massive Mormon temple (you must belong to the Mormon church to enter), bought some souvenirs, and treated my pacer (for blog purposes I will call her C.) to lunch and talked race strategy. We agreed that she would pick me up at the Franklin Trailhead aid station at Mile 61, around 2am early Saturday morning. It was a very busy afternoon of sightseeing and coordinating logistics!

Lisa at the Utah State Capitol

Lisa at the Utah State Capitol

At 3:45pm, we arrived at the pre-race meeting at Sugar Park in Amalga, UT. It was very chilly and drizzling rain, and the temperature felt like low 50’s. All the Bear 100 runners were huddled under the wooden pavilion as we awaited final race instructions from the race director, Leland Barker. Typically, 100-mile races take days of preparation just for the race–there is usually a pre-race meeting, a place to drop off your drop bags (participant-provided bags) so they can be placed on the course, and bib pickup.

The goody bag had a nice maroon tech shirt with a map of the course elevation on the back and a packet of Hammer Nutrition Recoverite. They sold some merchandise at Leland’s (the race director) trout farm up the road. It was funny–it’s such an intimate race (only 300 participants) that he had us put our drop bags on the lawn and he sold merchandise in his living room! I bought a big red fleece jacket with the race logo.

Shane and I took about 1 hour to assemble our drop bags. There were 13 aid stations along the course, and 10 of them had drop bags. It was important to strategize what your needs were at what point of the course. For example, you needed a headlamp in your drop bag a few miles before darkness set in, and you had to anticipate what foods/gels/liquids/caffeine boosts you wanted at certain miles!

Finally, once our drop bags were done, we could eat dinner! I chose Jack’s Wood-fired Oven in Logan, as their pizza looked pretty legit. I ordered the tomato basil soup and the “Pig and the Peach” pizza. It was prosciutto with thyme, honey, and chipotle peach dressing. It was delicious! It was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had while traveling. Finally, it was bedtime around 10pm to prepare for our 4:30am wakeup call (race started 6am). Luckily, the start line was only 10 minutes away by car!

Jack's Wood=fired oven pizza

Jack’s Wood-fired oven pizza

Bear 100 Race Day, 9/27/13

This was it. This was the day I had been training for the past 8 months. I was ready to rock and roll!

Shane and I ate a light breakfast at our hotel, then we got to the start at 5:30am with plenty of time to spare. There was no official start line banner, just a tent set up for the volunteers and runner check-in and a bunch of runners clustered together in a parking lot.

I got the chance to meet elite ultrarunner Karl Meltzer. He’s a pretty awesome guy–he has the current record for most 100-mile wins (35) and was a past champion of the Bear 100. We chatted a bit and his last minute advice was to “be patient.” And of course, runner geek I am, I got my photo with him. Thanks for the advice, Karl!

It was pretty dark and chilly, and I offered Shane my sweatshirt because he had packed all his jackets in his drop bags. I’m happy to share! At 6am, there wasn’t really a start horn–a bunch of people started moving, and off we went into the darkness!

Miles 1-10

I was feeling pumped, and I knew to start very conservatively because there was a 4,000 ft climb in the first 5 miles, and the first 10 miles were almost completely uphill. It was singletrack, so runners didn’t really have room to spread out until after 4-5 miles. The views as we climbed higher were stunning. I think I was one of the few “city” girls that gaped and took pictures while climbing. I took this race seriously, but I also wanted pictures to make sure I had a little bit of fun along with the torturous climbing! I also noticed a lot of people had trekking poles, and thought about getting some the next time I go on a mountain adventure. The first 5 miles were very, very tough, but I felt well-prepared. The one hard thing i didn’t expect was the snow. There was a decent amount of snow, and the chilly air sometimes made it hard to breathe. Luckily, I didn’t feel sick from the altitude…yet.

Me and elite ultrarunner Karl Meltzer

Me and elite ultrarunner Karl Meltzer

Me and Shane at the Bear 100 start

Me and Shane at the Bear 100 start

I made sure to keep hydrating and eating the entire time. People ask me if I ever get bored during an ultra, and the answer is no. There is so much to do! You have to keep your eyes focused on the ground so you don’t trip, remember to eat, remember to drink, and look for trail markers. Plus, there is scenery to be enjoyed and photos to take. How could I possibly be bored??

Me near the top of Logan Peak

Me near the top of Logan Peak

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I reached the Logan Peak aid station and was so glad to have made it to mile 10. One of the tough things about the Bear 100 is that there is usually 7-10 miles between aid stations, which means that you have to carry adequate water and supplies in between, plus it can be very scary at night when there’s no one around until the next aid station.

Miles 11-20

I was still enjoying myself very much during the race. However, miles 11-20 were some of the coldest times–there was snow gently falling on the trail, and since we were high up on the mountain it was windy. I had to be very careful of my footing so that I didn’t slip too much on the snow. My spirits were still high because it was afternoon and I was wide awake. I was having a blast! The descent into one of the lower points, Leatham Hollow, was gorgeous. It was very runnable trail and there were pine needles to cushion my footsteps. I made sure to thank all the volunteers I saw! I made it through one of the hardest climbs and descents and I was feeling pretty darn good.

What happens when darkness falls? Race report to be continued…stay tuned!


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Mount Beacon, “Bear” Encounter and Restaurant week

Alas, summer has come to an end, but it was a great one filled with eating and running. I can’t believe it’s the month of my big goal race of 2013, the Bear 100! I am flying out to Utah on September 25 and I couldn’t be more stoked. Thanks to Shane, I have a lovely pacer from Utah who is willing to pace from miles 61-85, so that gives me an extra boost of confidence.

This is what I’ll be running from 9/27-9/28. Just looking at it makes my heart race.

Bear 100 (Utah) elevation chart

Bear 100 (Utah) elevation chart

It has been a very hot, humid summer for running, but training runs wait for no one! For the most part, I stuck to a pretty regular running schedule in June and July, but my running tapered off a bit in August because life happened. I definitely didn’t do as many long runs as I should have (in August), but I built a strong base in the spring (15 straight weeks of races) so I have confidence in that.

Mount Beacon

My best/most important workout was going to Mount Beacon with Shane in mid-August. If I do another mountainous ultra, I will definitely have to come here even more. It’s a lovely mountain in Beacon, NY with 1000 ft of elevation gain over roughly one mile. It’s perfect for technical/rocky trail running, hiking, and practicing descents.

We took the train to Beacon, ran 2 miles to the trail head, and then spent 6 hours hiking up and down the mountain multiple times. I did 6 repeats (50-55 minutes roundtrip for each one), while Shane did 8 repeats. It was fun seeing flabbergasted tourists asking us, “didn’t you hike this already?”

Reasons why Mount Beacon rocks (haha I made a pun…):

1) There’s a deli at the bottom with cold drinks and hot sandwiches

2) It’s fun to have a buddy come along–you can do repeats at your own pace, and high-five each other on the way up/down.

3) The views at the top are amazing

4) Its rocky, technical trail and steep climb make for perfect mountain hiking and simulates a mountainous trail 100.

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Summer Streets

The week after Mount Beacon, Shane and I ran about 5 miles of Summer Streets in NYC. Summer Streets is sort of a 6-mile long street festival that takes place 3 Saturdays in August. There are car-free streets, people are encouraged to bike, walk or run, and there’s even a Whole Foods “picnic” with samples. It’s a lot of fun.

I got some good schwag, like Sweet Leaf tea bottles, KIND bars, a photo opp from Banana boat, a Camelbak bottle from REI, and a coffee tumbler from the Public Theater.

Summer Restaurant Week

Of course, with all that training comes a bit of reward. I took advantage of some of the Summer Restaurant Week deals at Park Avenue Summer, Ai Fiori, Nobu and David Burke Townhouse. I even splurged a bit on non-RW prix-fixe at Marea (which I highly recommend). My awesome mom took me to The NoMaD restaurant for my birthday, and it was every bit as good as I thought it would be.

At Park Avenue Summer, Michelle and I had the softshell crab, pork shoulder with spicy tomato sauce, and lemon panna cotta with strawberry foam. So delicious! Sadly, Park Avenue Summer is moving locations and will be closing. It was one of my favorite restaurants–they have a 4 seasons concept where they change the name, decor and menu of the restaurant each season.

Teresa took me to Nobu New York for my birthday, and the standout dish was the beef teriyaki with spicy anticucho sauce. Thanks Teresa! Nobu never disappoints. David Burke Townhouse impressed me with a farm egg ravioli–super fresh and I love anything with egg in it. Ai Fiori for lunch was a delight. I got the zucchini soup appetizer, the skate wing (fish), and the vanilla panna cotta with summer berries. The skate wing was perfectly breaded and cooked, and the dessert was just the right amount of creamy and smooth. Finally, NoMaD knocked my socks off with all three courses: Corn (3 ways: grilled, pureed, and popped), Chicken (rosemary chicken with truffle brioche), and Milk and Honey (milk gelato with dehydrated milk foam and honey). It was really special to enjoy this restaurant on my birthday with my mom, and she loved it too. I highly recommend the Corn and the Chicken!

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Long Island Run: Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail

On Labor Day weekend, Shane and I headed out to Long Island to run some trails in Cold Spring Harbor. It was lovely, and even though the sky threatened to pour rain, we emerged unscathed. It was a 2-mile run from the LIRR station to the trailhead, then we spent 3 hours and 20 minutes running about 18 miles of trails. It was so nice to get out of the city! There were some slight climbs and a lot of tree roots that made it challenging, but the last 5 miles were pretty flat and were packed dirt. There was even a Stop & Shop at Jericho Turnpike which intersected the trail, so we stopped to get some Gatorade and water after 2 hours of running. Best of all, I found a “Bear” on the trail! It was a good omen for my 100-miler.

Lisa and the Bear

Lisa and the Bear

To top off our 3 hours of running, we stopped at Dollops for some frozen yogurt with toppings. I got pistachio and strawberry banana with mochi and blueberries. Yum!

The next day (9/2), we did a track workout. We ran 2 miles to the track, did 4x 400m repeats (1:22, 1:38, 1:44, 1:50…totally ran out of steam) and 20 burpees in between each repeat (80 burpees total). I also did 40 crunches, 20 oblique crunches per side, and 100m of walking lunges. Then, we ate ice cream and ran 2 miles back before the rain hit!

All this training will pay off, since I have three upcoming races in September, four in October, then I’m running the ING NYC Marathon in November!

Lisa’s race calendar:

1) Super Spartan New Jersey (10 mile obstacle course): 9/7/13

2) Run 10 Feed 10 (10K in NYC), running on behalf of Team Skechers 10/22/13

3) Bear 100 (Utah) 9/27/13

4) DC Ragnar Relay 10/4-10/5

5) Rock ‘n’ Roll 10K (Brooklyn) 10/12/13

6) Atlantic City Marathon (10/13/13)

7) Rock’n’ Roll LA Halloween Half (Cali, 13.1 miles): 10/27/13

8) ING New York City Marathon 11/3/13

See you on the run!


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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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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!