Life's little adventures, accompanied by a running watch

Friday, November 28, 2014

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't….”

Last Sunday, I finally got to run the Wolf Hollow ½ Marathon.  I say “finally” because I’ve had an eye on this one for a couple years, but have always had some other race or recovery period conflict with it.  A month after GhostTrain 100, I was craving a little motivational race to jumpstart me.

Scott, Bella, and I set out early to find the place and pick up my number and a cute shirt.  With Scott still in a boot, I also wanted to make sure he had plenty of time to get wherever he wanted to be to watch the race.  Bella was beside herself with smells, lots of people and other dogs.  The day was gorgeous, finding me in shorts and a long sleeve light running shirt.  (Sidenote:  a couple days later, snow!)

While we waited for the start, I told Scott I just hoped I could keep a steady pace and that I didn’t really expect much.  I wasn’t sandbagging; truly, I just didn’t know what my legs were capable of.  They felt OK, but not overly strong.  So, I sort of set my own expectations rather low that day.  Scott reminded me that I didn’t lose all my fitness/strength/stamina this past month just because I hadn’t been running 50+ mile weeks any longer.  He also stated I should have no problem finishing in sub-2 hours.  It’s exactly what I needed to hear.

I started the race conservatively, talked to other runners, and enjoyed the perfect day on an easy/runnable trail.  The course was primarily trail with very few rooted or rocky areas to have to navigate.  A dream!

About half way through, Scott’s words floated back into my head; that I…”should have no problem finishing in sub-2 hours”.  Well, in that case:

The best part of this race?   The best part was not my pace or placement; it was how I felt during this race.  This race was all about having fun on this non-goal oriented race (unless you count the sub-2 part) and soaking in the race energy around me.  For me, what happened felt magical.

I started passing runners.  Lots of them.

Hopefully you know me by now to know that I’m not saying that in a braggy way.  I’m saying it in a truly surprised way.  It’s hard to finish strong in a race.  It’s easier to start out too fast and fade towards the end.  And it sucks to be passed when you’re feeling that fade creep in.  This time, however, I was the one doing the passing.  I felt so strong and a couple times wondered, “who has taken over my body?”.   A couple other times, I found myself wondering, “OK, what mile is it going to be where I can’t sustain this any longer?”.  Fortunately, that mile wasn't until somewhere in mile 12.  Knowing I only had 1.1ish miles remaining, I could keep it together.

Up to three days post-race?  SORE AS HELL!  I wasn’t this sore after Ghost Train and I guess that makes sense when you look at my Ghost Train pace vs. Wolf Hollow pace.  But still, I did NOT see that coming.  Ouch.

Just goes to show you, legs and lungs are important, but the mind?  The mind is a powerful thing…. 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.”  Henry Ford

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Does EPIC describe my long day at work?  Nope.
Does EPIC describe tonight's nightmare commute?  Close, but nope.
Does EPIC describe the piece of a coworker’s birthday cake I scored today?  Nope.
Does EPIC describe the snow in upstate NY…..well, that one may deserve an EPIC.

So what is best described as EPIC?

  • EPIC is the name of my treadmill.
  • EPIC describes the 3 mile run I completed on my EPIC treadmill after my long day and nightmarish commute.
  • EPIC describes the feeling after completing that run.  Instead of sulking over wasted time in the car.  Instead of “rewarding” myself with a glass of wine or other goodies.  Instead of regretting not having chased the EPIC feeling that only comes with meeting a goal.

Even an EPIC little 3 miler goal.

What is best described as EPIC for you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


It’s funny how time works.  When I was contemplating returning to school as an adult while working full time, I wondered how I would find time to study, write papers, and more importantly, relax.  Studying did happened, degrees were attained, and time was again redeposited in my account.  Very soon, I found things to do to eat up that time.  The months leading up to Ghost Train training were much like the time working towards my degrees.  Intense and then done.  So what have I been doing with this “extra” time?

I actually don’t like to cook.  If it wasn’t for running (and my husband), I’d probably be feasting on a bowl of cereal or toast.  Today, I whipped this gem up.  Not a vegan, not paleo, not anything here folks…guilty as charged!  Just a simple meatloaf with potatoes, carrots and some onions for flavor.
Sorry Mom, I should’ve warned you to sit down while reading this!
As recently mentioned, I took a good two weeks off from running after Ghost Train.  I walked quite a bit, but ran not a step.  This week, I’m getting myself back into the groove.  And because I scored a work-from-home day today, I actually got two runs in today!  Bella and I grabbed a foggy 3 miler first thing, and then a bonus second 3 miler just before it got dark.

Yard work
I didn’t think to take a picture, but suffice it to say, we worked hard this past weekend to get our lawn cleared of leaves.  There was also some lawn mowing going on – it looks pretty nice if I do say so myself!

I try not to sleep in too much, since it just creates an “off” feeling for the rest of the day.  But it has been nice to sleep “in” until 7 during the weekends, get a run in, and still have a good chunk of the morning all to myself!

My mom asks me occasionally what I’m reading, and I usually answer with “nothing” and sigh.  Today, our Runner’s World arrived and I’m excited to curl up with it tonight.  Recently, the magazines had piled up while I ran back to back long runs, and then spent the rest of my weekends tired and sometimes fuzzy.  Not great for comprehension!

I’m so happy to be writing again!!  I’ve missed it but knew not to push it.  This should be and is fun; not to be treated like a task.  I’ve also been catching up on reading some of my favorite blogs as well.  Interesting how I picked up a new follower since I started writing again (wink).  Guess people move onto other blogs that aren’t so stagnant.  Glad those of you stuck with me while I got my writing mojo back – thank you!

So here I go, filling up all of that previous Ghost Train training time with everything I just told you about.  No worries, I’ve registered for a 50 miler in May, so soon enough, training will become intense again and some of the above will undoubtedly shift again. 

Time is what prevents everything from happening at once. ~John Archibald Wheeler

Monday, November 10, 2014

Training for the rest of my life

Today, Facebook greeted me with this:

Happy 45th birthday Bert & Ernie! Sesame Street first aired on this day in 1969.
Which of course slapped me in the face with, “Holy crap, I’m older than Bert & Ernie???”  When did that happen….

I usually don’t put much thought into aging, but something like this reminds me that I’m well into my 40’s.  I have the best friends who tell me how great I look, etc.  I don’t know how great I look, but I can attest to how great I feel.  And that’s what’s most important to me.  During this brief reflection on age, I also realize that the only other time I think about age is running related – you know, as in age groups.  I’ve celebrated a couple of age group placements over the years that are currently buried in my 15 minutes of fame bucket, but age groups have always brought my line of thinking to Boston Marathon qualifying times.  I mean, what a great way to embrace the march towards a new age group than to add 5 minutes to one’s BQ time! 

Lately though, I’m finding myself even less interested in qualifying for Boston (gasp!) and more interested in exploring new and different races.  A friend once said he was “training for the rest of his life” and that sentiment has stuck with me.  And as the age numbers creep upwards, the concept of training for the rest of my life feels more important than ever.  I want to stay healthy and fit when I venture into my next new age group.  I want to continue to meet new friends on this running exploration.  I want to visit new places (cities, trails).  I want to eventually place first in my age group because there are so few 70+ age group runners competing. 

As we find ourselves almost half-way through November, I’m hearing/reading a lot of expressions of, “2014 season is over” and “can’t wait to launch my 2015 training schedule”, etc.  True, my big A race for 2014 is indeed in the past and I have no races planned for the remainder of 2014.  But I believe the training continues even through the “off season”.  The training intensity may slack a bit and the holiday goodies may threaten the leanness so hard fought for during the year, but training for the rest of my life continues.  Through the Winter.  Through the Spring.  Through, well… the rest of my life.

Who's with me!

Saturday, November 8, 2014


As I wrote previously “my pain was Scott’s pain”, the opposite is true as well.  Today was supposed to be Scott’s A race.  StoneCat50 miler.  A gorgeous, crisp Fall day presented itself as a perfect day to run.  But back on September 27th, Scott injured his ankle.  The kicker is that it happened on a silly shake out run the day before he was to run VT50.  Needless to say, he had to sit that one out too.  I'm so disappointed for him.

Many runners face injury at some point.  Running trails creates a formidable threat each time, since ankles and roots just don’t get along all that well.  That’s what happened to Scott.  He’s really honed his trail running, so it was quite a shock when he returned from that run in such bad shape.  I’ve been impressed with his attitude working through this and his drive to stay fit through this experience.  He was in terrific shape and had such a successful and strong training cycle, which made this interruption so much more difficult to process. 

To add salt to the wound, he has had to listen and watch me prepare for and run Ghost Train.  He never made it about him, other than lamenting that he was unable to run with me during the race.  He has barely uttered a complaint and has soldiered on to try to do what is in his control to heal.  Injury is hard.  Granted, it’s not like he’ll never run again (though right now, I’m sure he’s feeling that way).  But the disappointment leading up to and including today is palpable. 

Although his season ended prematurely on September 27th, Scott’s trying to look ahead.  First step:  heal the ankle fully.  Second step:  use this time to strengthen.  Third step:  get hungry.  I’m sure the ‘get hungry’ step is happening already.  I’m hungry too.  There is nothing I want more than to see him healthy and running again.

His pain truly is my pain.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Will you do another?

I’ve heard that question a number of times since completing my Ghost Train 100 mile trek.  I think I was asked that very day, though that day is still a blur.  Much like when people say, “Never make big decisions when you’ve had surgery, going through tough time, etc”, I can’t fathom making that decision any time soon.  In fact, I’m still very much reveling in my accomplishment.  I’m not ready to let it go sit on our “accomplishment” (aka medal) showcase just yet.  Maybe I never will.

Since Ghost Train, I’ve done some walking but almost 2 weeks out, I haven’t run yet.  I’ve been in no rush, but also, work and commute have been a big time suck the last two weeks.  Last night, I realized I’m getting cranky.  So, it’s time to resume running!  I feel great physically and I feel like I want to mentally – that was my biggest fear.  I have accomplished big races before and have not wanted to look at my running shoes for awhile afterwards.  Even though Ghost Train obviously pushed me more physically and mentally than ever before, I feel pretty hungry to get back to it.  So that’s a good thing.

So back to my blog title, "Will you do another?"  I honestly don’t know, but right now, I’m leaning towards “no”.  And here’s why: 
  • It’s impossible to recreate something so magical as a “first”.  Back in 2000, a group of us ran Reach The Beach.  We had the most amazing people, so fun, so easy going…how could we recreate that? 
  • Training was pretty intense and extremely time consuming.  I actually enjoy the back to back long runs on the weekend, but running a 30 miler on Saturday and another 20 miler on Sunday really limits any free time that I depend on to recharge.
  • Race prep was pretty intense and extremely time consuming.  Scott was all in and embraced his “crew chief” role with all of his might.  He made sure our friends and I were well fed, hydrated, and cared for.  That took a lot of work.
  • Crew/Pacers.  I asked a lot of my friends and they went above and beyond.  I don't believe in take, take, take.  
  • Balance.  Between the training, the prep, and the actual race weekend, it’s hard to maintain balance.  Like many, I work full time and then some.  I also took on a hellish commute back in August with no ability to work from home (steadily anyway).  Balance means different things for different people.  I know what sets me off balance, so try to be mindful of what triggers it and/or how often I allow it to do so.
  • I miss running ‘regular’ races and running ‘regular’ training runs with friends.  Most people venturing to train for a 100 miler are training to be slow.  Or slower.  I was determined to not blow up at Ghost Train, so I was diligent with my run/walk ratio approach.  Kinda hard to merge a 30 mile training run at 13 mins pace with a friend training for a marathon at 8 or 9 min pace.  No one wins.
  • Was it worth it?  Hell yeah...

What could change my mind (never say never!):
  • Having depended so heavily on my friends to pace me, I wonder if I would be so strong without them.  Do I even need to prove that to myself?  Not sure.
  • As any runner can attest to, I wonder what I could do to that 29:06 finish time.  Hmmm…
Or what could land me somewhere in between:
  • I’d love to pace and/or crew Scott or friends through a 100 miler.  I got so much energy and support from my own crew and pacer support that I want to pay that forward.
So, for now, I’ve registered for Pineland Farms 50 miler in May and, to help train for that, the Maine Coast Challenge (half/full marathon challenge 39.3 miles) earlier in May.  Friends have joked with me,“wow, marathons will feel like a 5K” and yes, running 100 miles definitely resets some expectations.  And yes, the concept of registering for a half/full challenge isn’t so scary when you’re accustomed to running back to back long runs that are longer than that.   But I still need to respect the distance.  

If anything Ghost Train taught me is to respect the distance.  Whatever that distance is. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mile 75 – a life changer

During Ghost Trainmile 75 represented a critical moment in my race.  It was that cold and dark moment just before dawn, it was that moment I could no longer see straight or formulate solid sentences, and it was that moment I first thought I wouldn’t finish my 100 mile attempt.  It was not my finest hour.  Or mile.

I realize that the physical and emotional toll of having covered 75 miles at that point, coupled with having run through 13 hours of darkness and the ensuing sleep deprivation, was much greater than many life moments one might experience (and not usually all at once!).  But in retrospect, mile 75 could take the place of any life moment that we face that requires a decision.  A moment when you’re at a cross road.  A moment that could change you one way or another.

I remember lamenting to Sue D how “unlucky you are to pace me on this leg” and in quick response, she assured me, “I think I’m pretty lucky actually; I got to see you work through all the exhaustion and pain and leave it behind to finish”.  Jeez, when you put it that way Sue…..  And with plenty of sleep and ten days post-Ghost Train, I can now see how Sue might feel that way.  It was awful for Scott and my friends to see me hit my “wall”, but then they watched me get up.  And I walked.  And I never turned back.

As I reflect, I think about other times in my life that have been mile 75-esque –

Earlier in my career, I remember the desire to flee various jobs when they got difficult.  Some I did flee; others I did not.  Those I did not flee are those that made me stronger and more confident.  Because I worked through whatever was scaring me or threatening my confidence, I then became braver and more confident.  What a simple and awesome domino effect! 

On a more granular level, I still hit moments at times when I’m not sure what to do or even where to start.  Don’t we all?  In the short time I worked through mile 75 and went on to finish my 100 mile goal, I’ve hit a moment or two at work that have left me slightly overwhelmed.  I don’t think the overwhelmed feeling goes away necessarily, but I think it just feels more attainable once you’ve struggled through something like mile 75 and have seen the light on the other side.

If we’re lucky, we get friends that last a lifetime.  But alas, friends do come and go.  Sometimes those friends you thought you’d have forever lose their luster or become toxic.  Knowing when to work through the salvageable relationships and learning when to cut them loose is a challenge.  Either way, the action can bring you to a stronger place with those friends you keep and make room for friends you may need, but don’t even know yet!

Personal Development
I attended college back in the day, but only last two years before quitting.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do and couldn’t remember why I was there.  This decision has two cool domino effects tied to it:
  1. When I left college, I took a temporary role at a bank.  My now husband Scott was a loan officer there.  The rest is history J
  2. When I decided to return and complete my bachelor’s, I was in my 30’s and extremely overwhelmed.  A friend enlightened me about the program she was participating in and took me under her wing.  That decision lead me to graduating a month before my 40th birthday with summa cum laude honors.  A year later, I enrolled in a master’s program and graduated in 2009.
Many have asked me how I had the strength to get up out of the chair at mile 75.  Others have commented that they “could never run 100 miles”.  I’m just a regular person.  I don’t run for money or my career or my ego.  I just run because I enjoy it, the efficiency, the goals, the camaraderie, and because I suck at dieting!  And to be just a little bit more corny, I ran 100 miles because I truly believed I could.

I got such energy and support from Scott and friends that morning at mile 75.  They said and did all of the right things.  But still, the decision to get up and continue was all mine.  Running 75 miles would still have been a personal best for mileage and certainly, one of my most challenging events to date.  But I had trained for 100 miles and more importantly, knew that completing 75 miles instead of the goal of 100 miles would have left me in a very different mindset today.  The “simple” act of getting up that day will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Ghost Train Tale of 100 miles

I finished Ghost Train 100 miles in 29 hours, 6 minutes….I will warn you that, although it shouldn’t take you that long to read my recap, this is a long one!

Two years ago, I ran my first 50 miler at StoneCat.  After that race, I remember wondering, “what’s next?” but having no dreams of attempting anything longer.  It never even entered my mind.  Until it entered my mind!  I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but as I registered for Ghost Train 15 mile race in 2013, my little secret was that I was actually preparing to scope out the course to determine if I could handle 6.666 legs of it…for 100 miles.

I remember the race director making his pre-race announcements to us 15 mile racers last year… something to the effect of, “You’ll see runners out there who have been running through the night trying to complete 100 miles, so please be kind/encouraging”.  I remember tearing up each time I approached one of the 100 mile racers.  I was in complete awe of them.  They looked so worn out, so tired, and yet, still so determined.  I was going to be one of them.

I quickly found a training schedule that I believed would work for me.  I’ve never been a huge weekly mile girl and wasn’t looking for some lofty sub-24 hour finish.  Nope, just wanted a schedule that would complement my life and not over take it.  I knew my life would be disrupted by the intensity, duration, and the ultimate race itself, but I strived to keep some semblance of balance.

In the end, I completed nine 26.2 mile or greater training runs, with seven of them 30 miles or greater and always followed by a second long run the next day.  All in the name of “time on feet”.  I was able to incorporate three solid trail races; 18 miles at GAC Mother’s Day race, 50K at Pineland Farms, and 50K at TARC Summer Classic.  This trail race training provided immense confidence in footing, navigation, and fueling. 

Fueling and night running were also practiced.  I’ll admit, I got lax with the fueling practice and Scott was there to remind me that I needed to train with real food, not just GU.  So, he found a great recipe for chicken ginger over rice and that became my main staple for Ghost Train.  In fact, I never took even one GU during my entire 100 miles!  I didn’t get a lot of night running in, but also knew it would be difficult to try to emulate 13 hours of night running.  Knowing I had secured pacers to help me through the night miles, I didn’t get too worked up about it.

I spent the day before the race packing, cooking, and mentally preparing.  I also grabbed hair elastics that I wore on my wrist, removing one each time I returned after a full leg.  That seemed like a great way to symbolically count off the legs.

The race – first 30 miles
All of my training included a run:walk ratio, though during the race I wasn’t as timed/rigid as it had been during my training.   I was lucky to have Carrie with me for the first 30 miles, since she actually registered for the race.  We took pictures, chatted, and ran a nice easy/steady pace.  Other than having to accommodate to my slower pace, Carrie truly got the best of Lisa!

Staying hydrated with diluted grape Gatorade and eating something every 30 minutes, I felt fantastic!  Interestingly, I fell only once – heading back from the first leg at mile 15.  Because the weather was actually a bit warm on Saturday (did I mention this race was flanked by 2 nor’easters??), I took a couple salt tabs during the day.  By the end of 30 miles when I left Carrie, I felt my legs starting to work a bit.  Nothing seriously painful, but just knew they were getting ready to work a bit harder.

The race – evening miles
Sue T took the 6:30 pm shift and, although not a big trail runner, was ready to head into the darkness with me!  I was still feeling decent and had long since decided to embrace the darkness.  The temperature still felt unseasonably warm, but I changed out of my shorts and short sleeve shirt and into capris and long sleeve shirt anyway.  Sue had saved up many stories for our run together, even writing them down on a post it so she wouldn’t forget!  By now, I was experiencing some steady Achilles discomfort.  When Sue asked if she could help by massaging, I said yes! and a mid-trail massage ensued.  After letting Sue know my plan to eat every 30 minutes, she began providing helpful time checks.  What we didn’t know yet was how funny they would become.

Sue:       It’s 10:45…… night.
Lisa:      [ laughing ]
Sue:       It’s now 11:13….pm…..same night.

And so it went….

The race – midnight miles
As I approached camp to pick up Meaghan, I thought, “Here come the hallucinations I’ve heard about!”  But no, it was real – Meaghan had wrapped herself in battery operated Christmas lights!  She had alluded to having something up her sleeve…I just never thought it would be Christmas lights!   Not only did the lights give me a shot in the arm, but all of the runners coming towards us as well.  The comments, chuckling, and thumbs up (yes, I could see because my light source was pimped out) that came from Meaghan’s “costume” was such a boost for all of us.  I was definitely more tired and had actually started yawning during Sue’s leg.  That continued and followed me into Sue D’s leg.

The race – graveyard miles
I was not a happy camper during Sue D’s pacing leg.  I was tired and very quiet.  But Sue had tricks up her sleeve too.  She made a great booklet of affirmations/encouragement that she started reading to me each mile.  This was no small feat because she was doing this via headlamp.  And she managed to stay on her feet and not fall.  Sadly, she dropped it at some point and we never found it.  She, like the others, kept me moving, gently suggesting we “run a little bit” to keep the forward momentum going.  It’s also during these miles that I began to see things that weren’t there.  That was a little weird, but having a friend with me helped me not over react to my newfound hallucinations. 

At mile 75, I hit bottom.  My head was clear enough to know that my legs and feet hurt, but were working fine.  But the sleep deprivation had gotten to me.  I couldn’t see straight, I was emotional, and I couldn’t imagine taking another step.  I became overwhelmed with what was still left ahead of me (and no one uttered a word about having a full marathon ahead of me – thank you).  I reached the turnaround and sat down.  Scott and friends could see I was in a bad space and worked hard at finding the right mix of consoling and tough love.  What got me out of that chair at mile 75 was all due to them.  They reminded me that the sky was already brighter, that full daylight was only minutes away, that I would feel recharged from the daylight, and on and on.   They were so right!

I left the chair and never looked back.  Sue and I spent the next 7.5 miles talking and listening to songs she queued up on her phone.  One of my favorites came on “Just Give Me A Reason” (Pink/Nate) and she dared me to reach the high note.  Always up for a challenge, even at mile 75+, I nailed the note.  I’ll never listen to that song in the same way again!   In addition to the daylight and Sue’s music and encouragement, I was hailed as a rock star by the 15 mile racers starting their race.  Their encouragement simultaneously reduced me to tears and charged me up.  At mile 78, I was greeted at the aid station by bacon and pancakes.  Oh.My.God.  I filled a cup with a combination of the two and marched on.  What a lift!

The race – daylight again!
In my underestimation of the latter miles, I did not have pacers lined up for the final 17.5 miles.  Meaghan took care of that!  Her boyfriend Chris, who I had met once just the week prior, took on the challenge of pacing me for 7.5 miles.  He kept me running, eating, and drinking and was a godsend to me.  He grabbed me food at the aid station as I closed my eyes in the porto-potty.  I realized this type of catnap was far too dangerous.  My head bobbed and the thought of falling through scared me enough to exit quickly!

At mile 90 (gulp, still feels surreal to say that), Meaghan took on a second pacing challenge to get me through those final 10 miles.   It was a slow go, but she would count down from 10 (felt like 100!) on each running segment and then we’d walk.  Rinse/repeat.  I was never so happy to reach the 5 mile turnaround…

Sue D and Wynn (Sue T’s hubby) met Meaghan and me a mile-ish from the finish (could’ve been a couple of yards for all I know).  I was so happy that I was able to actually be running at mile 97, 98, 99…. I finished in running form and with a huge smile on my face!  I was surrounded by my friends and there was Scott, smiling, cheering me on, taking video…and grabbing me as I finished to hug me and congratulate me on my successful 100 mile completion.

Doesn’t get any better than that.

Check out my VIDEO that Scott created from a collection of photos and videos taken over the 29 hours, 6 minutes I was out there.  There’s great music that accompanies it too, if you want the full experience.

My fantastic crew!
Thank you to all who encouraged and supported me!  Thank you to my friends who gave up their weekend and their sleep, paced me, cooked for me, changed batteries for me, massaged Achilles for me, tolerated my whining, cheered me up, and helped me realize this remarkable goal I had set for myself a year ago.  I love my tribe.

And the most special thank you goes to Scott.  My goal became his goal and my pain became his pain.  He is my rock always, but he continues to amaze me with this strength and support he so freely gives.  Without him, this goal wouldn’t have been possible. 

And now, I rest and reflect (and watch my video over and over!!)  J